The New Jersey Devils were without two important centers, the New York Islanders were without two important defensemen. Both teams came into Nassau Coliseum on the second night of a back-to-back, threw their top goalies into the fray, and hoped for the best.
The Devils leaned on Cory Schneider during a second period they were lucky to get out of only trailing 2-1. The Isles leaned even more so on Jaroslav Halak as they simply clung on while being massively outplayed in the third period. Proving that in hockey, 'tis better to lead and pray than to trail and try, Halak and his blueliners were able to survive that 16-shot third period to hang on for a 3-1 win.
How Things Happened, IIRC
The Isles opened scoring on a full line rush up ice, John Tavares sending Kyle Okposo over the blueline, Okposo's slapshot squeaking by Cory Schneider enough for Nikolay Kulemin to pick up the garbage.
Damien Brunner equalized just a couple of minutes later on a deflection of an Adam Larsson point shot.
Early in the second period, the Islanders got the lead back off a fourth-line faceoff in the offensive zone. Casey Cizikas won the draw back to Calvin de Haan, who can tell his grandkids he made Jaromir Jagr look like an old man (nevermind that he actually was one at the time) with a spin move at the blueline followed by a shot that went in off a foot in front. That foot may have belonged to Cal Clutterbuck, though the goal was still credited to de Haan, at least initially.
The Islanders continued with a furious stretch in that second period where all lines were pouring on offense and shots, building what was at one point a 24-11 shot advantage. Ryan Strome's hooking penalty ended that run, and the Isles were again lucky to avoid giving up a goal to the Devils' power play, including a wide-open look for Mike Cammalleri that he shot just wide.
Still, it looked unfortunate and possibly ominous for the Isles to reach the second intermission only leading by a goal.
The Isles had an early chance to change that when the Game Of Marginal Hooking Calls continued, with Brunner dinged yet again for raising his stick just so. But the Islanders power play, with the second unit starting -- the first line had just been on the ice -- was again something short of threatening.
Only one shot registered on that power play, but if you told me all that happened was a few perimeter sweeps and sloppy-seam passes, I'd believe you.
In fact, that was the only official shot on goal the Isles mustered in the entire third period until Casey Cizikas sealed the game with an empty netter with 4.3 seconds left.
Yes, the Devils peppered Halak with 16 shots and many more attempts in the third period as the Isles simply held on. They didn't really show the conviction of "we're going to do more than rely on Halak" until they ran into a lengthy penalty kill for the final three-plus minutes of the game, when they needed everyone.
- Cal Clutterbuck and Jordin Tootoo found each other and did their thing. Which doesn't involve fighting but did involve coincidental misconducts for pesting. When they emerged from the box, Tootoo reportedly offered to fight, but Clutterbuck said "nah."
- Which was good, because with the Islanders doing their fatigue funk thing, the fourth line was one of the few to actually convince the puck to spend some time outside the Isles zone for a while.
- Oh, and Clutterbuck's rink-long clear on the PK with three minutes left ended up being the Isles' second freaking shot of the third period. (Wasn't registered by the scorer though.)
- Amid the chaos, there is always Calvin of Haan. Calmly collecting the puck and carrying it out all by his lonesome if no one else is going to bother.
- de Haan was dinged for the critical penalty, when he took down Jaromir Jagr in front of the net, that created a 5-on-3 though. Refs let that go all the time.
- Thomas Hickey had one of those ooouuuuch hahd shot blocks up high on the late PK. Lotta battle level out there.
- Halak was solid. Seriously solid. I hated that they were clearly relying on him so much, but you knew it was a good possibility coming into their sixth game in nine nights. Entering the third period with a one-goal lead, you knew it was inevitable.
- 11-3 in the dreaded November. We'll take it. Well earned, and now, finally, for some some well deserved rest.
Quote of the Night
"My brother asked me if I was waiting for a microphone. No, no speech ready. I was just taking it in one last time, taking a look at all the building's old ghosts. And the kids on the bench were so great too."
--Denis Potvin, on lingering a bit after his pre-game intro and ceremonial puck drop