After giving up five goals in Colorado, the New York Islanders played a very careful game in San Jose. The approach held serve for the first 52 minutes, when the Sharks broke through with a go-ahead goal on a circus deflection, then added an insurance goal a few minutes later.
Though the Isles struck first in the game, their 1-0 lead was brief in the first period and most of the game was spent tied and conservative. The Sharks had the majority of shots and deserved their 3-1 win. The Isles took their third loss in a row.
If there was any bright side -- and this is forcing it some -- it was that Jaroslav Halak made many good saves among the 31 shots he faced. All three Sharks goals were, if not unstoppable, then certainly in the "that would've been robbery" category.
How They Scored
Kyle Okposo opened scoring at 8:06 of the first with a nifty drive outside and pull to the middle of the faceoff circle for a quick shot. His lateral movement was enough to pull Antti Niemi off the post, where he surprised him with a near-post shot.
Just two minutes later, however, Tomas Hertl tied it on the power play. He was left alone in front after the puck slipped behind the net, Johnny Boychuk's clear was blocked and airborne, and Thomas Hickey vacated the front to try to clear. Hertl has struggled thus far this season, so it was good of the Islanders to give him their customary Get Out Of Slump Free card.
The game was uneventful and carefully played from that point until the teams traded a few chances halfway through the third. Jaroslav Halak had to make a few good saves in tight to keep it tied; the goal that broke the tie was some magic from well wide of the net: Justin Braun fired a volley several feet to the left of Halak's net...and perfectly deflected upstairs by Logan Couture.
The Isles had only 18 shots to San Jose's 28 at that point. The goal forced them to pick it up for the final eight minutes. But as is the risk of a late-game push, a botched entry by Thomas Hickey enabled a Sharks counterattack, where Ryan Strome doubled up a check on the boards leaving Matt Martin as the guy to chase James Sheppard ... who outraced him and tipped the third goal in over Halak's shoulder.
How They Didn't
Travis Hamonic rang the crossbar when Nikolay Kulemin set him up high in the slot after a furious backcheck by the European line fed the counterattack.
There was a moment Okposo had so much time in the middle of the blueline, he faked a pass, faked a shot, ran out of time ... and had to bust his tail back to his own zone to prevent a breakaway after he was stripped of the puck.
That winning goal came with the first line pinned in its own zone, not for the first time on the night. Overall, despite netting the only goal, the first line was, well, not good. (Can't blame Cory Conacher this time.) Call it a funk? Tough line matching? They faced a whole lot of Logan Couture, Patrick Marleau and Marc-Edouard Vlasic and did not come out on top. Meanwhile, part of the low-event aspect of the game was few penalties drawn by anyone, so fewer opportunities for them to make a mark with the extra man.
Scott Hannan got hurt in the first period and never returned. That did not help the Isles anymore than scratching Brian Strait helped the Sharks.
Jason Demers checked Conacher in the head in the third period. It wasn't a brutal check, but clearly a foolish headshot, drawing a minor. The Isles squandered the power play.
Power plays: Again, this was a low-event game overall. Almost like both teams were careful after facing each other and exchanging chances a few weeks ago. But the Isles' first power play was slow to get started before maintaining pressure for the final 30 seconds, and the second one was absolutely awful -- the Isles hardly entered the zone after Lubomir Visnovsky's opening shot almost squeaked through Antti Niemi.
Why Love Brock Nelson: Late in the first, Nelson stepped up to intercept a breakout pass in the neutral zone, weaved by two Sharks, was taken to his knees, still got a backhand shot off -- and got up in time to not run the goalie. There were about five "little things" he did right on that play, which is no doubt why people love his hockey sense.
Hockey Goalie Eh's Corsi Report
If you haven't checked game threads, LHHer Les "not Beaver" HockeyGoalieEh has been sharing these beauties (with color coding in the originals). You can see who struggled (it was also who got the most ice time):
|Player||Pos.||Period One||Period Two||Period Three||Total|
|CALVIN DE HAAN||D||5||9||35.71%||2.38%||7||6||53.85%||-7.69%||5||4||55.56%||-0.44%||17||19||47.22%||-3.44%|