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Goal Explosion: New York Islanders Run over Nashville Predators, 6-4

With close to their full lineup, the Islanders offense finally broke out, with Jack Capuano praising Brock Nelson and Matt Donovan's performance in a big game for their bids to make the team.

"I would like to make this team. Please score two goals if you agree."
"I would like to make this team. Please score two goals if you agree."
Bruce Bennett

After two frustrating preseason shutout losses, the New York Islanders offense opened up with six goals on the Nashville Predators, forcing Pekka Rinne from the game at the second intermission after he gave up five goals on 24 shots.

Though the Predators erased an early 1-0 Islanders lead, the Isles scored the next five goals as several players you'd want to leave a mark weighed in with points.

Among your boxscore highlights from this untelevised game:

  • The captain John Tavares got them going with the first two goals, the first on a tip of Travis Hamonic's shot, the second on a combo with Hamonic and Matt Moulson
  • Matt Donovan bumped in a goal on the second of two reportedly savvy assists by Brock Nelson, this second one coming off a Nelson shot.
  • Lubomir Visnovsky scored on the power play, on a setup from Matt Moulson who had three assists.
  • Colin McDonald contributed a goal and an assist while filling in Kyle Okposo's spot.
  • Josh Bailey deflected in another Hamonic shot (Hamonic's third assist), though not while on the ice with new linemates Tavares and Moulson.
  • Pierre-Marc Bouchard did not score, but got open for a reported two breakaways.

Anders Lee was scratched from the lineup in favor of Brett Gallant, so the lines were different from what was expected after this morning's skate. (No immediate word given on the reason for the change, although Gallant and Paul Gaustad found each other to exchange elbow minors and a fight by the end of the first period.)

That left Colin McDonald with a more prominent role, including as the resident right-hander on the power play (where Okposo, originally slated to be replaced by Lee, would have been). For the record, the lines generally looked like so:

26 Matt Moulson - 91 John Tavares - 12 Josh Bailey
40 Michael Grabner - 51 Frans Nielsen - 13 Colin McDonald
96 Pierre-Marc Bouchard - 16 Peter Regin - 29 Brock Nelson
17 Matt Martin - 53 Casey Cizikas - 59 Brett Gallant

47 Andrew MacDonald - 3 Travis Hamonic
11 Lubomir Visnovsky - 14 Thomas Hickey
37 Brian Strait - 46 Matt Donovan

The usage was a little different then, with the Islanders having five power plays and 8:59 of total PP time. Some notes from the TOI sheet:

  • Matt Donovan had 18:04, with 3:30 of that on the power play.
  • Brock Nelson skated 16:40, with 3:47 on the power play.
  • The minutes leader was Visnovsky with 21:15, 5:04 of that on the power play.
  • Andrew MacDonald (18:57 EV) and Travis Hamonic (19:21) by far led the EV ice time

If the Predators were travel weary after their plane landed late enough to delay the start of this game, the Islanders took their foot off the gas late in the third period, committing some defensive breakdowns and giving up two goals in the final three minutes for the 6-4 final.

This was the only preseason home game at the Coliseum (the Isles also christened their future home in Brooklyn), and this lineup is by far the closest to the real opening-night lineup that they will ice this preseason. The Isles finish up this exhibition schedule on Sunday with two games vs. the Senators, so the makeup of those two lineups will necessarily be split and, perhaps, the last chance for anyone to open eyes and make roster decisions difficult.

At this point though, with Cal Clutterbuck out and Okposo due back Sunday, it is sure looking like Brock Nelson has graduated to the NHL.

Post-Game Reactions

Said Nelson after the game, asked if he's getting more comfortable here: "Yeah, I think so. ... The more games you play, the more you get used to the speed and things like that here."

Coach Jack Capuano sounded pleased with two of the rookies who are bidding to make the team:

"I thought Brock and [Donovan] played really well. I liked the way Donovan activated a lot. ... Gave Brock a few looks with Johnny and [Moulson], he did some good things."

Asked about whether Josh Bailey had the top line wing position locked up, Capuano was non-committal. He said on the split-squad trip vs. the Sens there might be a different winger next to Tavares and Moulson. Capuano also said he liked the combination of Michael Grabner and Frans Nielsen back together on special teams.

More of that from Capuano in Isles video here, with plenty of talk of "structure" and "framework" that he harps on with them:

These aren't earth-shattering things, but considering how restrained he is when asked to praise individual job-seekers, it's at least a tea leave.

The Isles had some live updates and descriptions here. We'll also add links to the others on the ground as they are filed.

[Update: And to those who weren't. Dirk already has the Corsi and fancy stats up at On The Forecheck. Also: The Isles recap focuses on the whole deal, while the Sound Tigers post a recap focused on the reverend Brock.]

If you were one of the 9,338 reportedly in attendance, by all means chime in below and tell the rest of your fellow fans what you saw.

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