Coming off their victory on Sunday, the Islanders had the unusual opportunity of leapfrogging from the 11th spot in the Eastern Conference to a tie for the last playoff spot with a victory against the Capitals and losses by the Hurricanes and Rangers.
Since I rarely get a chance to watch an Islanders game with my father, I thought I'd let him help me recap tonight's match-up vs. Washington. And since the Islanders have been road warriors all season, the chances of it being a happy recap were good.
The Islanders didn't waste much time getting on the board. 5:24 into the game, Michael Grabner took off into the Capitals zone, shooting the puck wide of the Washington net. But Keith Aucoin was able to corral the long rebound along the boards, and fire a beauty of a pass back to Grabner. Grabs didn't miss a second time, putting the puck past Braden Holtby for a 1-0 Islanders lead.
"Kyle Okposo has played 3 shifts and he still hasn't fallen on his ass yet."
No dad, he hasn't. And lately when Okposo stays on his skates, good things happen. The trend continued 2 and a half minutes later. In what looked like a near replay of the Grabner goal, Okposo threaded a pass across the ice to a wide open Josh Bailey. Bailey took a snapshot and ripped it past Holtby, and just like that the Isles were up 2-0.
It wouldn't be an Islanders game though if things didn't get exciting. On cue, the Mr. Softee truck pulled up in the second period and the Capitals found themselves back in the game.
Evgeni Nabokov gave up two goals to Mike Ribeiro and John Carlson that weren't exactly the hardest in the world to stop, and by the end of the second, the Islanders were in a familiar position, heading to the second intermission tied at 2.
"Chris, you know who the Islanders could have used in the third period? Blake Comeau. He was very underappreci...CHRIS STOP MAKING ME SAY THINGS I DIDN'T SAY! Go help your mother clean up the kitchen." Fine Dad.
The third period started, and while Nabokov may not have been his sharpest in the second, he came to play in the third. In the first 5 minutes of the period, Nabokov came up big on 3 quality scoring chances by the Capitals, keeping the game tied at 2.
The Islanders found themselves in a favorable position with a little over 5 minutes left in the game, thanks to a Dazed and Confused moment by Mike Green. Green either forgot where he was, forgot what team he was on, or just forgot how to play hockey, but whatever the reason, he lost the puck on the side of the Washington net.
Matt Moulson recovered the puck and fed it back to John Tavares at the right face off circle. Tavares shot the puck into the tiniest of windows over Holtby's shoulder, putting the Islanders ahead 3-2.
"Put that puck in the open net....oh it's Okposo. Too bad he's shooting and not passing it to someone, because then he would've hit the target."
He sure would, Pops. The Islanders would hold steady over the last 5 minutes, keeping Washington at bay. And while they didn't add an empty net goal, the lead didn't seem to be at all in jeopardy like it did on Sunday.
The Isles win, and for a very short moment, find themselves tied for the last playoff spot in the East.
Game Notes (Courtesy of Papa McNally):
- "The first line sucks" - While they did account for the winning tally, the first line did not have a good game. Butch noticed it, my dad noticed it, and I'm sure Jack Capuano noticed it. They struggled to get much offense going, and spent a tremendous amount of time in their own zone. They also had a handful of turnovers, leading to Washington offensive chances.
- "Marty Reasoner sucks"- Well he does at scoring. You have to wonder if Reasoner is ever meant to score an NHL goal again. He has had some good chances in the past couple weeks, none better than the shot he had in the first period tonight. Wide open in front and five feet from the net, Reasoner got the puck with an eternity to shoot it, and put it wide. Poor Marty.
- "The penalty kill doesn't suck"- Up against a formidable Capitals power play that was ranked first in the NHL, the Islanders not only held Washington scoreless in 3 chances, but held them to just a single shot on those 3 opportunities.
- "The Islanders don't suck when they score first"- It's true Dad, the Isles are now 11-3-3 when they score the first goal.
- "The first line might suck, but the others don't"- While the first line continues to struggle, the other lines continue to flourish. The second line has played well the past few games and tonight was no exception. Grabner and his line created chances, as well as chipped in some timely defense. And the fourth line...they just do what they do, and do it well.
- "That Mack Donald guy is always on the ice"- Andrew MacDonald lead the team in TOI with nearly 26 minutes, and did a solid job in the Islanders zone. Also providing solid play from the blue line was Thomas Hickey, who made you wonder why Joe Finley ever gets the opportunity to dress for a game.
*I would like to say that my father, a huge Isles fan, has much more insightful comments than the ones I used in this recap, and since I know he'll read this, I would like to thank him in advance for being such a good sport.