The New York Islanders lost two early leads and required a late Frans Nielsen goal with the sixth attacker to salvage a point against the Vancouver Canucks in a 5-4 overtime loss at Nassau Coliseum.
The result concludes the Islanders homestand with just one win out of five tries, which makes one win in their last six games overall, though a couple of regulation points (one OTL, one shootout) slightly softens that blow and their tenuous position in the upper half of the paltry Metro Division standings.
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Nielsen's goal was part of a three-point night, as he also factored on two Matt Moulson goals. John Tavares's extension of his point streak to eight games and Brock Nelson's first NHL goal were the other boxscore highlights of note.
Tavares and Nielsen are now tied for the team scoring lead with 11 points in nine games, which apparently qualifies Tavares to be a good third-line center. (Sorry, fan joke.)
How They Scored
Nelson opened scoring 2:26 in with his first NHL goal on a near-gimme after Peter Regin's backhand wrap attempt squirted through two Canucks defensemen and landed on Nelson's stick.
(As is long-established protocol, Nelson posed with his first goal puck but did not smile, for the team lost, and the answer is always "but I'd give it back for a win.")
The Canucks had the better of the first several shifts, but the Isles struck again with a power play goal at 4:41. (That power play came after Chris Higgins slashed the stick out of Frans NIelsen's hands. Canucks talking heads would question Nielsen's strength at that moment ... which would prove ironic later when Nielsen somehow made Ryan Kesler blow up.)
On the goal, Nielsen spun to feed Matt Moulson at the door step. Roberto Luongo stopped Moulson's first stab, but he recovered to bank the puck in off Luongo's leg pad.
Then the annoying themes returned.
As he is wont to do, Jack Capuano deployed the fourth line immediately after the Islanders goal. The ensuing goal by Ryan Kesler 14 seconds afterward is more on Evgeni Nabokov's fat rebound than a fourth line mistake -- they got their dump in and a check -- but one can't help wondering if a different line wouldn't be immediately chasing the Canucks' top line back toward the Isles zone.
Or maybe they would. It was the Isles top line that was victimized by the Canucks' second line four minutes later. Jannik Hansen rushed through the right wing circle and sent a wide shot across the zone to Daniel Sedin, who unleashed the shot quickly and took advantage of Nabokov having to cover the full width of the crease in a hurry.
The second period brought more goals, and more heartbreak. Henrik Sedin was whistled for a high stick of some sort, and the Isles' hot power play converted again. Roberto Luongo kindly left the short side open for Moulson's second goal, garnering that famous "Who the what the how now?" look from John Tortorella.
But you knew that lead wasn't safe. Dale Weise caught the Thomas Hickey-Matt Carkner pair and fed the Sedins for a two-on-one. Carkner's desperate dive was used against him, and the twins combined to bank the rebound in as Hickey futilely tried to clear a twin.
What looked like the critical blow came in the final minute of the second period, after a turnover and failed exchanges on the breakout resulted in Kevin Bieksa bobbling and soccering the puck back into the zone, where he took a routine shot from outside on Nabokov...which Nabby Hextall-ishly played straight to hometown boy Chris Higgin's stick. There is room for complaint on this play about Brock Nelson (pass, backcheck), Kyle Okposo (exhausted backcheck) and Brian Strait (big gap), but really Nabby's fat rebound
Blind Mouse, Recovery
With six minutes left, the officials and Ryan Kesler's flair for the dramatic combined to help the Canucks eat up clock when Frans Nielsen was called for "elbowing" after hitting Kesler along the boards near the bench. Ninety seconds later, they made a modest attempt at reparations by calling Henrik Sedin for his third minor of the night when Peter Regin stepped on his stick and wiped out.
The Isles didn't convert on that power play, but they kept up the pressure afterward and through the pulling of goalie Evgeni Nabokov for a sixth attacker. Andrew MacDonald faked his way to a clear shooting lane, and Frans Nielsen found a gaping open net with the rebound. (This is in contrast to his Danish friend Peter Regin, who earlier fired a similar opportunity off the post for the second game in a row.)
With that, it was on to overtime and, as we see so often in 4-on-4 nothing-to-lose interconference OT, some entertaining rushes both ways. The Canucks had the final one.
Mike Santorelli did a fantastic job of rushing the puck through the neutral zone, then playing Boomer to protect
his daughter the puck from Matt Martin as he gained the blueline, made Brian Strait look confused, and found Brad Richardson rushing in wide. Richardson's attempted pass in front for Kevin Bieksa was stopped by Andrew MacDonald's stick instead ... and into the net.
Regulation point salvaged. Bettman bonus point lost.
- This was another one where the Isles controlled enough of open play to win, but made enough poor mistakes to lose. The first Canucks goal was typical: MacDonald and Travis Hamonic played their own part in letting Kesler free while Nabokov served up the rebound. The Isles were opportunistic in opening up a 2-0 lead, then threw it away quickly.
- All told, that's two goals from big rebounds and two from big defensive lapses.
- After the Isles coughed up their second lead at 3-3, John Tavares nearly put them on his back and won the lead back all by himself. He danced around the Canucks defense, sidestepped his way around to Luongo's far side, only to have his high backhand hit iron (and a little leather?). Those moments, man.
- MacDonald actually did fine taking Lubomir Visnovsky's spot on the power play, getting shots through and available for deflections from the point (though his passing isn't as creative as Visnovsky's). But it remains a mystery why MacDonald is logging 31 minutes (23:47 at evens alone) while Matt Donovan is getting just 44 seconds of power play time. To be fair, Donovan was used a lot at even strength and played an NHL career-high 20:37. But 31 minutes is Pronger minutes, Lidstrom minutes. Not MacDonald minutes.
- (On that note, what will MacDonald's contract demands be when his agent can call him the most-used defenseman on the team and a key special teams guy? Not that Jack Capuano should give a damn about contract leverage when deploying personnel, but ...)
- Dane Down: Not one of our Danes, but Jannik Hansen left the game after crashing into the boards on a speedy rush around Brian Strait. Looked bad, looked like shoulder.
Tweets of Interest: The Goaltending Question Lurks Always
So Nabokov played a clear helping hand on the first and fourth goals and looked shaky at other moments. (Other goals were blamed on him by fans, probably unfairly -- but then that happens when the reputation builds for sofites.)
Nabokov actually made at least one critical save that kept the game at 4-3 and within reach of a comeback after the Isles couldn't generate anything in the first half of the third period. He hasn't been the problem so far this year, so reason dictates not turning on him after one, or arguably two bad games.
Yet the fear is always there and his stats entering this one were above the career trend he's likely to regress back to. So this was interesting in the post-game:
Capuano: "I'm not going to talk about the goaltending." Last time he said that, he was referring to DiPietro last season. #Isles— Arthur Staple (@StapeNewsday) October 23, 2013
Cappy declines to discuss the goaltending but states "If Poulin plays well, he is going to play more." #Isles #NHL— Eric Hornick (@ehornick) October 23, 2013
Kevin Poulin is due to play one of the back-to-backs this weekend anyway. Maybe he bails out a few more defensive lapses than Nabby would, or maybe he fares no better. But the Isles can't keep scoring three goals (or more) in games and coming away without two points.