It was Clark Gillies night: The New York Islanders owed the first Hall of Fame power forward a gritty win. Against the NHL's hottest (and arguably best) team, no less.
A tight affair -- one from which the Islanders can fairly say they had the better final 40 minutes -- turned in 51 seconds of the third period when the Isles reversed a 2-1 Chicago Blackhawks lead to carve out a 3-2 victory.
First Kyle Okposo scored through a very tight space on the power play, then Lubomir Visnovsky did him one better by sniping a puck off the inside of the near post through the only needle hole Scott Darling left available.
After outshooting the Hawks 33-15 over the final two periods (41-25 overall), the Islanders' three-game losing streak was over, as was the Hawks' eight-game win streak.
As you were.
A Bit about How It Went Down
If you were watching along, it was all about the quick strike, which broke up a frenetic pace from two very sharp, physical and -- Capuano love it -- good puck managing teams.
Quick strike one: Six seconds after horrible person Daniel Carcillo opened scoring in the second period with a one-timer that Jaroslav Halak saved, only to have it pop in the air and bounce in off his back, fellow pest Cal Clutterbuck tied the score at 1-1. Norris defenseman Duncan Keith made a WTF pass in front of his own goal, which Clutterbuck intercepted and quickly deked through a surprised Darling. (aside: so many fun phrases you can make with Darling's name, darling.)
For a team -- or rather a fanbase -- feeling the weight of three recent losses against tough Central Division competition, erasing that first strike quickly was therapeutic.
Quick strike two: Patrick Kane broke the tie early in the third period, catching the Isles on a defensive change and doing his impossibly accurate backhand routine tight over Halak's shoulder. As the game crossed the midway point of the final frame with the Islanders down 2-1 and about to near-miss on the power play, it felt like things wouldn't go their way again. Instead, Okposo nailed a brilliant, low-angle, near-post shot off a rebound with under 30 seconds left in that power play.
Before you could finish thinking the Islanders might once again get what they deserve after all, they did: Just 51 seconds later, Visnovsky followed a rush by the fourth line (who seemed to be out there constantly, and of course scored two goals), took advantage of the overlap by the retreating Hawks players pursuing coverage, and unleashed a shot every bit as Kane's go-ahead goal.
I say "overlap" kindly; honestly not quite sure what Kane was doing on the goal. I imagine he was sincerely trying to increase coverage, but passing Visnovsky -- the puck carrier -- right by in the process. That was a bit poetic: It was Visnovsky that Kane skated around for the earlier goal.
With the Hawks net empty as time wound down, the fourth line was out with Ryan Strome leading the way. His clear/longshot from the Isles zone narrowly avoided being insurance when it bumped off the inside of the post. After an icing, he won the final faceoff of the game, and the Isles got the clear, with Cal Clutterbuck chasing it time to negate an icing and avoid any one last faceoff in the final seconds.
- The Islanders took only one penalty, keeping the penalty kill from going to "work." That sure helped.
- As a rule, the refs let the teams play. The Hawks penalties that gave them two more than the Isles were both no-brainer high-sticking calls.
- The Isles are home again Monday to the Devils, then don't play again until Friday.
- Against his old team, Nick Leddy played 19:29 (the Visnovsky-Thomas Hickey pair had slightly more TOI), with a team-high 27 shifts.
- For the second time this season, the Isles stopped a losing streak at three. Exorcise these demons, one at a time.
- The much-debated fourth-line usage is easier to stomach when Strome and Clutterbuck are two-thirds of it.
- "Reinhart in for Strait."
- Two years in a row with a home win over the Hawks, this time without requiring Okposo heroics in overtime.
#Isles Okposo: "We want to be on a curve that keeps ticking upward, but there’s going to be peaks and valleys in that..."— Stephen (@StephenCLorenzo) December 14, 2014
#Isles Okposo "You’re going to have a couple of games where you don’t play so well and you blow a couple of leads..."— Stephen (@StephenCLorenzo) December 14, 2014
#Isles Okposo: "But we have to realize that we’re a good hockey team and get back to playing the way that we play. And we did that tonight."— Stephen (@StephenCLorenzo) December 14, 2014
Quote(s) of the Night
"Very important. We get a bigger confidence right now. Thankyouverymuch."
- Lubomir Visnovsky, first star
"How many breakaways did you have in your career, Howie?"
- Butch Goring