Saturday night, Evgeni Nabokov returned to the net for the first time since Nov. 16, a time when the New York Islanders' season still held some hope. He delivered the kind of performance the Islanders needed then and need more now, stopping the first 24 shots over the first 61 minutes.
But with each team struggling to find a goal, Thomas Hickey got too cute with the puck behind Nabokov's net, gave it up to David Desharnais and received inadequate emergency help from Aaron Ness, who was beaten by Max Pacioretty to the pass for the lone goal in a 1-0 overtime defeat.
- In his NHL debut, Ryan Strome had two shots on goal, played center, was 5-6 on 11 faceoffs, skated 14:43, including 3:43 of power play time, chiefly in a hybrid point/half-boards role.
- In his 362nd NHL game, Josh Bailey had zero shots on goal, played wing, was 3-6 on nine faceoffs, skated 19:47, including 2:30 of power play time, and took one minor penalty.
- Strome was fine in his first game, lined up with Brock Nelson and Cal Clutterbuck -- a safe alignment with two smart wingers. He was used carefully, worked the puck nicely on the power play, and didn't look like a nervous rookie too much. I refuse to read anything into his first 15 minutes as an NHLer, but you saw some of the skill things you hope to see from him.
- To warm us up on a snowy night, Eric Boulton and George Parros fought early, with Parros having the edge until Boulton, nearing the end, caught Parros with a powerful uppercut that caused Parros to leave the game and not return. We have all benefited greatly from this encounter.
- Boulton played while Colin McDonald sat. Peter Regin was back in as fourth center with Casey Cizikas (jaw) out.
- Oh, Price had the shutout. Those sound nice. Nabby was close to having one in his return, it turned out.
- It didn't appear quite so pivotal then, but John Tavares hit the post on a bobbled Carey Price rebound late in the first period, and in retrospect that might have been a winning goal -- but Islanders can't have nice things. Not in November or December, anyway.
- Hickey has been very good this year, particularly in Lubomir Visnovsky's absence, so it was sad and uncharacteristic to see him botch the play in OT. He even had a second chance to find a safety and still chose poorly. You just can't do that. Ness was quick to know Hickey needed help but slow to figure out the best way to offer it.
- In fact, that was an uncharacteristically poor play by a defense that played uncharacteristically well tonight.
All told, a mild return to "normalcy" (other than going scoreless) during a month that has otherwise been absolute hell, but: Lost again! Season sinking. the Isles have two wins in their last 15 games, both of them via shootout.
Here are a bunch of angles from CBC on the Lars Eller hit on John Tavares, which Tavares said afterward wasn't too bad:
Eller was penalized two minutes for illegal contact to the head.
Tavares said he didn't mind Eller hit. "It was mostly my shoulder. I didn't think it was too bad a hit." #Isles— Arthur Staple (@StapeNewsday) December 15, 2013
Opportunistic and mildly predatory, but thankfully clean and not damaging to the head of the franchise star, we trust.
Up Next: The Isles host Tampa Bay on Tuesday.