While this corner of the world was distracted by breathless reports of which teams were pursuing Thomas Vanek and which teams had no idea they were supposed to be pursuing Thomas Vanek, the New York Islanders and Winnipeg Jets engaged in a hockey game.
The Isles played without Vanek, who was scratched, and Andrew MacDonald, who was traded, and scoring chance machine Eric Boulton, who hurt his hand in a first-period fight, and John Tavares, who so that he could be human gave the mortals his only left knee in Sochi.
With the Jets needing a win to keep their playoff chase and the Islanders just having fun with the kids, the teams played an entertaining, physical, and rather loosely structured game. Michael Grabner scored last, and best, with a breakaway to win it 3-2 in overtime.
A back-and-forth first period ended tied at 1-1, but the Jets came out storming in the second, outshooting the Isles 17-7 in the middle frame. But because hockey is hockey, the Isles scored the only goal of the period, on a nice play by Michael Grabner and Anders Lee.
The Isles looked to hold on for the win until Andrew Ladd got a completely uncontested breakaway during 4-on-4 play to tie it at 2-2 with 5:07 left in regulation. Then about 10 minutes of even looser play ensued. But that and the other details are for the highlights and bullets below.
There were lots of good plays, and lots gaffes. Heroes and goats. Among them:
- Ryan Strome was all over the place, in a good way. When he dropped back to cover a defenseman at the blueline, he inevitably got the puck or prevented a clear and then fired the puck back in on goal. One time it led to a goal, as Colin McDonald tied it at 1-1 in the first.
- Anders Lee not only fed Strome on that goal, he later took a Michael Grabner interception-and-pass in on a breakaway which Ondrej Pavelec initially stopped, but which Lee batted in out of the air while waiting for the puck to fall just below the crossbar.
- Frans Nielsen prevented the tying goal by using warp speed to come back and completely erase a Jets breakaway opportunity.
- Michael Grabner and Cal Clutterbuck, on the winning goal. Clutterbuck made an outstanding play in his own zone, spinning to keep the puck and then fighting through an Evander Kane would-be hold to spring Grabner. Grabner then simply turned on the jets and split the Jets defense (Jacob Trouba and Zach Bogosian) without resistance...then made a nice move to beat Pavelec. On a breakaway!
- Anders Nilsson. Credit where it's due: He made 36 saves. There were hairy moments -- there are for any goalie -- but he stuck with it tonight, and neither goal was his fault.
- This lady (I use the term loosely). This lady right here. You capture Area Idiot Sports Fan so well.
- Travis Hamonic, on Winnipeg's opening goal, misplayed the puck down low worse than departed Andrew MacDonald did in the Florida game.
- Josh Bailey, carrying in at 4-on-4 late in the third, misplayed it with no Isles behind him, allowing a clean breakaway for Andrew Ladd to tie it on his second goal of the game.
- Brian Strait and Calvin de Haan, who were the two defensemen on the play, going on walkabout to enable Bailey's mistake to be so deadly.
- With three minutes left, Anders Nilsson overplayed his hand behind the net, got in trouble, and panicked the puck over the glass for a delay of game penalty.
- The referees were horrible -- since this game meant nothing, I feel comfortable ranting about them. Extra minors on Eric Boulton after a fight, an interference call on Ryan Strome after he was shoved into the goalie, a missed takedown of Grabner shortly before the Jets tying goal and a missed mammoth crosscheck of Cal Clutterbuck...and that's just some of the calls against the Islanders. They missed a couple obvious ones that should have gone in the Jets' favor too. (Make-up misses? Or incompetence?) It felt a bit like the Jets were getting "this game matters to the Canadian team" home cooking.
- Andrew Ladd, for tying the game on the breakaway instead of letting Anders Nilsson have a nice game saver just this once.
- Stick manufacturers. All of them. They're all horrible, they're all too expensive, and three of them broke in overtime alone. Seriously. /Howie'd
Anyway, between two major trades (Vanek's is pending tonight or tomorrow, destination unknown), the Isles pulled off an exciting overtime win. Because hockey.