While the New York Islanders scrambled to adjust to Nikolay Kulemin's ejection, the Winnipeg Jets adjusted to the Isles' transition game, pinning them with a 4-3 loss in the final game of a homestand before the 6-3 squad heads out on a tough Western trip.
A strong first period and 1-0 lead was undone by Kulemin's game misconduct and major penalty after checking Mark Stuart early in the second period. Some tough bounces -- and victorious battles, it must be said -- gave the Jets two goals on that power play.
Although the Isles surged back with two power play goals in 1:34 around the 15-minute mark of the second period, they had troubles generating at even strength for the rest of the game. Their breakouts became more solo as the Jets did a better job clogging the neutral zone transitions.
When Andrew Ladd regained the lead early in the third, the Jets kept pushing. The Isles generated a few chances here and there -- Mikhail Grabovski hit the post in a bid for his second tying goal of the game -- but it looked like the Jets had leveled the tables. Kulemin's absence was felt both on that initial five-minute PK and in the line scramble to replace him for the final 40 minutes.
After Kulemin's major penalty, the Islanders did well to get both goals back, first through a John Tavares rebound on the power play, then through an outstanding individual play by Mikhail Grabovski. But without that special teams jolt, this game probably doesn't feel within reach for its final half.
The Isles were on a four-minute power play because Mark Scheifele checked Thomas Hickey from behind into the boards. At least it was closer to the boards than Kulemin on Stuart, so "less dangerous" in that respect. But it was classic checking from behind. Meanwhile, Stuart's back wasn't initially turned on Kulemin, so it's interesting the line drawn here between double-minor and major-plus-game.
Speaking of calls ... well there were some shady ones (Cal Clutterbuck's "trip," which would have really created a dangerous situation had Dustin Byfuglien not crosschecked him in retaliation). From different angles, I do see why Matt Martin was called for embellishing even if he was probably just leaning for position...and then falling.
If you've missed the shift charts, check them out at War-on-Ice. Games like this are always interesting for that, when a key forward is lost half way in. You see the Ryan Strome/Anders Lee pair getting work with regular center Brock Nelson, plus appearances with Frans Nielsen and Tavares. Grabovski and (to a lesser extent) Clutterbuck appear with everyone. Matt Martin and Casey Cizikas mostly stick together, though Martin understandably saw just 2:02 in the third.
+ Grabovski, Grabovski. Can we say he'd look good on that top line too? I'm not one who thinks Cory Conacher is some overmatched black hole there, but I do note that line's continued defensive weakness. You wonder if Grabovski could help that -- and is needed to help that right now. He certainly also brings the offensive spark.
- I've loved Kulemin so far, but this was his first glaring mistake as an Islander and it was a big one. He had leveled Stuart in the first period on a (clean) check near the benches too, but this time he went too far.
+ Johnny Boychuk was back on the power play, creating the first goal (off the post, Brock Nelson finished). Two PP assists for him.
- Jaroslav Halak was stable, and then not at all. Brian Strait lost the battle at his post, but it's still tough to watch the puck get stuffed over Halak's pad, wobbly as it was. The glove whiff on Jacob Trouba's goal was awful. The rebound on Ladd's winner wasn't awful -- he was kicking it wide -- but was obviously within Ladd's reach.
- Okposo was the guy who lost the puck at the far blueline on Ladd's winner. He was also the guy who was within reach of Ladd's stick there. The first line's defense overall continues to worry.
- Speaking of which (more on this in tweets and video below), Capuano talked more about the Okposo turnover and others, while we got our first "not gonna talk about the goaltending" of the season.
- The Jets are last in the Central and were without Evander Kane and Zach Bogosian for an Islanders home game. Zero points out of this really stings.
+ It's fun to have complaints when the team is 6-3. It would've been even more fun at 7-2.
As we all know, a big Western trip looms. Five games, Colorado to California to Arizona, including that dreaded Anaheim-L.A. back-to-back. It should tell us a lot.
The Initial Word
Halak: "bottom line, I need to be better." #Isles— Stephen (@StephenCLorenzo) October 29, 2014
Capuano blames puck management, especially Okposo's turnover on the 4th goal. He wouldn't comment on goaltending. #Isles— Brett Cyrgalis (@BrettCyrgalis) October 29, 2014
Capuano on the difference in tonight's game: "The turnover on the fourth goal... In a tie game we try to be cute at the blue line and...— Matt Saidman (@MattSaidman) October 29, 2014
Capuano cont'd: "we don't have that rush response and urgency to get back and they shoot one off the pads and it's in the back of the net"— Matt Saidman (@MattSaidman) October 29, 2014
Full Capuano Post-Game
"I knew eventually this was gonna happen, with our puck management. They gotta figure it out really quick. We talk about it all the time; it hurt us last year. It wasn't our D-zone coverage or systems, it was how we managed the puck."
More of that, plus the gist of the quotes tweeted above, in a brief post-game: