Yes, it's still October. But it sure is nice having a backup goalie who can win you games.
Grabovski scored the 3-2 overtime winner and drew the rather stupid first-period penalty that enabled the Isles to strike first, Tavares was given too much space to score the insurance goal the Islanders would very much need to survive the Blues' comeback from an 0-2 deficit, and Greiss provided save after save after save until the game ended with Grabovski -- and not Steve Ott -- smiling in victory.
To be sure, if the Blues had finished even a fraction of the low-slot chances they created for themselves, the outcome would've been much different and Greiss might've even been chased from the net. But the German was a rock as his team was outshot 40-22.
Granted, Colton Parayko's seeing-eye shot through traffic probably should've been picked up, but otherwise Greiss was sterling. The Isles weren't quite as bad as a 2-1 shot differential would imply -- Vladimir Tarasenko created two power plays by, if not diving, at least theatrically falling into a call -- but they spent way too many stretches hemmed in and allowing even the Blues' fourth line to create chances.
But again: Scoreboard, Tavares, Grabovski, Greiss. Take the win, the two points and get out of town.
The game began with the fan-friendly -- I jest -- coaching decisions to sit Ryan Strome and Marek Zidlicky for Steve Bernier and Brian Strait after Friday's stinker against the Bruins. If Strait's re-entry was a classic Capuano given, it was at least refreshing to see Calvin de Haan retained in the lineup despite his errors on Friday night.
What do you know, de Haan had a much better game. If only such benefit of the doubt could be shown in Strome.
Nikolay Kulemin took Strome's place on the top line, which now had Josh Bailey next to John Tavares. Strait slotted in next to Thomas Hickey, leaving the top four on defense unchanged.
Okposo opened scoring on a power play with Anders Lee screening after a penalty thanks to Chris Butler taking a run at Grabovski from behind (Grabovski had just finished a check of his own, but come on). Against the run of play late in the second period, Tavares snapped a shot into the upper far corner after a long breakout brilliantly begun by Bailey in his own zone. Kulemin left the puck for Tavares and drew the Blues defense with him, leaving Tavares all the room he needed to beat Brian Elliott.
But in the third period, Parayko gave the Blues life and Alex Steen deflected in the equalizer after sustained Blues pressure. It didn't help that Thomas Hickey left the game with an injury.
Grabovski Wins it in OT
This was my first 3-on-3 overtime to witness in person, with a full view of the ice. It was both entertaining and stupid. Just accept that your sport is prone to ties, already. The scenario breeds extra caution with little bursts of offensive push. The whole thing feels manufactured, albeit better than a breakaway shootout.
Anyway, Grabovski won it after gaining the zone and dropping to Frans Nielsen, who somehow was allowed to feed Grabovski behind the Blues defense. Grabovski's winner was reminiscent of countless chances the Blues missed on this night. (And if you are annoyed by Isles fans who scream "SHOOOOOOOT" and "HOW could he MISS that?!"! for 60 uninterrupted minutes, let me reassure you once again: Every. Fanbase. Is. The. Damned. Same.
It was gratifying to see Grabovski net the winner after a good game from him, including a thunderous check he received by Steve Ott (in many ways the Strait of forwards) on a play that -- stop me if you've heard this before -- nonetheless created a two-on-one for the Islanders while Ott and thousands in the building admired his check.
Basically, Butler and Ott did their best to physically punish the player who poses the least physical threat on the ice this side of Frans Nielsen, and created two Isles scoring chances in the process. Good job. GRITZ, yo.
Grabovski on the Win, Capuano on the, um, 'Penalties'
"I think for us just to win is important for us tonight, plain and simple," Grabovski said. "Enjoy the moment scoring three."
"Whether they were warranted or not, we had to kill a lot of penalties," Capuano said. "Our goalie made some big saves when he had to."
Regardless, my premise is the Isles were lucky to emerge as winners on this night, but that's what enough talent can do for you. Capuano's lineup decisions after the loss to the Bruins were predictable but uninspiring, the backup goalie was outstanding, and the Isles are 5-2-1 on the season despite putting in some seriously half-tuned efforts.
Coming in October, that...could be both a bad thing and a good thing. Time will tell.
In the car exit line afterward, I successfully turned some "HONK, HONK-HOOONK"s ("Let's Go Bluuues") into "HONK, HONK, HONK-HONK-HONK"s ("Let's Go Islanders"). Unless they were part of the dozens of Isles fans I saw in attendance, they probably didn't realize what was happening. But it's the thought that counts.