Josh Bailey continued what looks through 10 games like a breakout season. Radek Martinek returned from the scrap heap to make a critical zone keep-in and assist. Frans Nielsen extended his run as a scoring center with his sixth goal. And the maligned and recently slumping Evgeni Nabokov made the comeback possible by keeping the Islanders in the game after a 20-shot second period and a third-period Sidney Crosby breakaway that might have sealed the game.
In hockey you don't always get what you deserve, and the Isles probably didn't deserve a regulation win on this night after being outshot 42-25 in Pittsburgh. But they hung around long enough, and did enough in a crazy final eight minutes, to snatch a dramatic 4-3 comeback win over the Penguins when Bailey completed the strike with 1:40 left in the game.
The Isles were penalty-happy in the first (four minors), almost disinterested in the second (outshot 20-10), but channeled their playoff form in the rousing third that saw them erase two one-goal deficits and walk out of Pittsburgh with just their second regulation win since Oct. 8, their third regulation win in 10 tries this season.
Other Notes from a Crazy One
- Much is made of Matt Donovan, who made some more rookie mistakes, but the Deryk Engelland go-ahead goal that victimized Donovan just 16 seconds after Frans Nielsen tied it had another familiar feature: Throwing the fourth line out there after an Islanders goal, and getting the Isles caught on the counterattack. Matt Donovan was on Engelland on the backcheck, and it was his and Donovan's miscommunication that allowed Engelland to go uncovered after Martin released him.
- Seriously, Nabokov gave up three goals again -- one on a fat rebound -- but had one of his big games. Stole it? Not exactly, not when beaten three times even on 42 shots. But key to the win? Yes.
- Thomas Hickey: Broken nose in the first period? No problem. His slap-pass, a common feature in the Isles offense on this night, fed Nielsen's goal that made it 2-2.
- Engelland is an extra defenseman tossed up at fourth-line wing for this one, and he scores that goal. Ugh.
- Pierre-Marc Bouchard's smooth hands were on display on the goal that tied it 3-3. Martinek's keep-in and pass was good, but it was jaw-dropping to see both Bouchard and Peter Regin uncovered that deep in the Pens' zone, behind the Pens defense, Pittsburgh having flown the zone when they thought their clear got past Martinek. How does that happen? (Thank goodness it did.)
- The game-winning goal was at once maddening and hilarious: There were two or three moments on the sequence where a goal should have been scored, but the puck when in on the unlikeliest of final flourishes, Bailey diving to poke a loose puck across after Nielsen set him up twice.
- Speaking of the winner: "Veteran experience" move by Rob Scuderi to crosscheck Nielsen out of there after the goal was scored.
- Travis Hamonic played half an hour in this one. Half! In a 60-minute game! With 6:51 on the PK alone. Impressive.
- It was tight until the end, Nabby called upon late. He'll make you nervous, but these moments probably shed light on why the team likes him and sees him as "coming up huge," in the parlance of their times.
- Martinek too takes flak from fans, his decline evident over the past few seasons. Coach Jack Capuano on why they like him (and thus, why they brought him back): "He’s an experienced guy. You know exactly what you’re going to get when he steps on the ice. He’s not flashy, but he does all the little things. He does a lot of things with his feet - he’s got great mobility and agility. He played some good minutes for us tonight."
Tonight, it was probably undeserved until the end, but enough of their hunches and tendencies paid off. In a horrifically weak Metro Division thus far, the Isles are in second place with a chance to do more damage against the Flyers tomorrow night at home.
Ten Games of Frans
Things that are fun at this point in the season: