The New York Islanders took a while to find their game again but ultimately cashed in on a friendly visit from a slumping Calgary Flames team that was playing on the back end of a road back-to-back. It was scoreless after 20 minutes and just 1-0 after 40, but the Isles methodically pulled away in the third period for a 4-0 victory Monday night at Barclays Center.
Jaroslav Halak was strong and controlling of rebounds throughout, noticeably after the Isles took a 1-0 lead late in the second period. He stopped 29 shots for his 38th career shutout and second of the season.
Yawning Beginning, a Learning Power Play
It was mostly a sleepy and unimpressive game through the first 30 minutes when some weird things started happening. Brandon Bollig took a silly penalty shoving Brian Strait into Halak. The Isles did next to nothing on that power play, and just about gave up a 3-on-1 before Josh Bailey hustled back to break up the pass to the high man..
But then they got another chance soon after when Dougie Hamilton was pressured behind his net and lifted his pass over the glass. The Isles first power play unit (featuring Frans Nielsen and Kyle Okposo on opposite sides of an umbrella with point man Nick Leddy) was better this time -- holding possession, getting a few shots on -- but still had to leave the ice with no goals.
The second unit -- which conceded a 3-on-1 on the previous power, remember -- continued the pressure. Just when the Flames thought they had a clear, Johnny Boychuk kept it in, waited a beat, and rang the puck around the boards to the left wing side. Josh Bailey was there to pinch it off and pass to a completely uncovered Grabovski in the low slot. Grabovski made no mistake with a nice, quick, far-post shot as he fell to his knees.
Great pass from The Bailey.
Great pass from the Bailey. pic.twitter.com/GqG74mKLDh— Rookie Example (@KeithLHHockey) October 27, 2015
The Isles showed much more jump after Grabovski's goal, and at least made noise of threatening again when Bollig took another penalty -- this time for a hilarious over-the-glass delay of game penalty after he tried a rink-wide pass from his own zone that sailed over the right-wing glass in the neutral zone.
Third Period: Pulling Away
The third period was a bit cagey at the start, almost as if the Isles knew they had a bad team down and just needed to wait for the next mistake to make the night easier.
That mistake came just five minutes in when Frans Nielsen sent a seeing-eye puck from the right point high through traffic, past a helpless Joni Ortio, who probably heard Bob Hartley's goalie laments in the back of his head as soon as the red light turned on. That insurance goal was a poetic stroke for the Dane after Mark Giordano had pancaked Nielsen with a high hit during the final second-period power play.
Now up 2-0, the Isles played even more casually until a classic "that's what the fourth line is for" shift. Carrying the puck to the right wing corner, Casey Cizikas worked Kris Russel this way and that way until he found a lane to pass to Cal Clutterbuck on the inside of the faceoff circle. Clutterbuck being a fourth-liner in name only, he put a nice shot past Ortio to confirm the ease with which the night would finish.
Had to feel good for Cizikas to pull that one off, as just minutes before Deryk Engelland was pinning him with rabbit punches behind the Flames' net. Cizikas didn't take the bait, and on the next shift he was rewarded.
Ultimately Bollig left with a 10-minute misconduct late in the third, as both he and Engelland's antics were signs of ruffian types desperately trying to stir a team that looked out of ideas after beginning its road trip 0-2 in New York.
Okposo [upon furthere review, Okposo's shot went in off Nielsen for his second goal] finished the scoring on a pretty passing combo with 1:50 remaining, finishing a rush Okposo started after Nikolay Kulemin retrieved the rebound and fed the Isles winger.