The New York Islanders couldn't score, couldn't defend, couldn't penalty kill, and sure as hell couldn't stop the puck in an impotent 6-0 home loss to the Minnesota Wild. But providing a Mona Lisa smile for otherwise tortured Isles fans, castaway favorite Matt Moulson scored the first and sixth goals to tie a bow on his return to Nassau Coliseum in front of family, friends and bored people who drifted into the Coliseum on a Tuesday night,
It didn't always look like the blowout laugher it ultimately became. The Islanders attacked the Wild hard in the first period, outshooting them 16-6 (36-22 on the game) while Anders Lee was credited six shots in the first alone. But it was two former Islanders properties who broke through, Moulson and Jared Spurgeon each scoring while Ilya Bryzgalov stopped all 16 shots in the first period, because Bryzgalov is a goalie.
Moulson got a loud, warm cheer for his first goal -- Long Island native-turned-Islanders troll Mike Russo called that reaction "cynicism," misunderstanding "fandom" in his Wild broadcast first intermission appearance -- while Nino Niederreiter received hearty boos when his second assist on Spurgeon's goal was announced. The cheering for Moulson intensified late in the game with him one away from a hat trick:
(Isles fans hardly need tips on this note, but cynicism would have been Bronx cheering Anders Nilsson for making a save, or perhaps cheering Spurgeon, whom the Isles never even signed after drafting him.)
In the second period, the Wild took back the better of play, and Mikael Granlund's goal at 16:02 made it 3-0 to put the game away -- yes, even for an Islanders game, where three-goal leads aren't safe for either side. He finished a nice feed from Jason Pominville behind the net, though I've no idea what Frans Nielsen and Calvin de Haan were doing on the play, other than not being on the same page. Nielsen wouldn't vacate the doorstep to attack Pominville, perhaps because de Haan merely stood at the opposite post rather than help cover the passing lane to Granlund in the low slot.
Karma was nowhere near the Isles' side on this night, unless this was karma teaching them a lesson for trading away a player who wanted to remain here for a player determined not to stay. After Clayton Stoner boarded Casey Cizikas from behind with the score 3-0, the Isles misfired on the ensuing power play, and then Stoner scored on a breakaway as he stepped out of the box.
That was the only Wild shot on goal in the first seven minutes of the third; the second one went in too, requiring video review and a rewind of the clock after Toronto confirmed Justin Fontaine's shot went in after clanging off the post to the left of Anders Nilsson. Moulson's second goal capped it late, on the power play, with each passing minute dragging the Isles further and further from their first-period form.
The Isles now get to stew over this one until Sunday, when they play Columbus, which ... okay, they probably deserve that, so karma is still a wise judge if not exactly on their side.
Moulson Scores, Nino...
With friend Moulson and outcast Niederreiter back in the house, it was a point of interest how the Islanders would treat their former mates. Safe to say there was a contrast. Moulson had the space to score two goals unhindered. Nino was, well he was in the lineup too.
Travis Hamonic played Niederreiter very physically early on, planting him on his bottom. And after Matt Martin made an awful back pass on a pinch that Nino intercepted for a breakaway the other direction, Hamonic went into overdrive to catch him and harass him enough to help force his backhand deke wide.
Ultimately Niederreiter played 15 minutes with one shot on goal, the breakaway shot wide, and the second assist on Heatley's goal. Moulson logged 16:23, while Spurgeon logged 21:31; the diminutive defenseman's goal was a rocket where Nilsson just might truly "didn't have a chance on that one."
Czuczman Debuts, Brian Strait Done
Brian Strait blocked a shot with his hand in the second period, causing him to writhe without a stick or glove while he continued the play. Not long after, the Isles announced he was out of the game with a broken hand ... which probably means he's out for the season.
That development could create more opportunity down the stretch for Kevin Czuczman, who had his NHL debut after finishing with Lake Superior State in the NCAA earlier this month. He paired mostly with Hamonic in logging 20 minutes for his debut. He was also minus-two on the night ... but then who wasn't?