Frans Nielsen scored twice, Adam Pelech made his NHL debut, and the New York Islanders found some offense in front of Thomas Greiss for the second time on a three-game California trip that finishes with four points after a 4-1 win over the Anaheim Ducks.
For the second night in a row, Brock Nelson got the opening goal on a nice wrist shot while playing on the top line, though his linemates were already off the ice.
This time, however, there was no quick equalizer -- no tying goal at all, in fact -- as the Isles led for 53 minutes and found rewards for their continued pressure.
Curses, Quotes and Clutterbucks
The old Butch Goring favorite narrative of "if you fail to score on a 5-on-3, more often than not you lose the game" was put to the test after the Isles had a long two-man advantage in the first. They moved the puck well, varied their looks, got good shots and rebounds...but only hit the post or, in Frans Nielsen's case, pushed a doorstep opportunity just wide. As a result, they failed to double their early 1-0 lead until midway through the second period.
Of even greater threat to that old score-or-be-haunted rule: Shortly after Cal Clutterbuck made it 2-0 on a rebound goal, the Ducks had a 5-on-3 of their own with penalty killer Mikhail Grabovski and Johnny Boychuk in the box. And they cashed in. Corey Perry scored at 11:23 with both still in the box.
Fortunately, despite the Ducks' best pressure after the Perry goal, that was their only strike of the night.
Frans Nielsen scored early in the third period on a beautiful tic-tac-toe combo with Anders Lee and Josh Bailey after Lee jumped on a turnover and outraced and outmuscled Josh Manson to the puck in the Ducks zone. "What a play!" Nielsen clearly said, because it sure was.
Nielsen scored again on a nice feed from Lee with under five minutes to go, and the Islanders actually had the luxury of coasting toward the finish line of this Western trip, their flight home suddenly taking on a much more festive flavor.
Once Nielsen's second goal put the game fully out of reach, Kevin Bieksa and Matt Martin were tossed for roughing and fighting after Martin intervened when Chris Stewart decided to make his presence known in garbage time by jumping Casey Cizikas, in classic Stewart "Oh, now you're awake?" style. But with both Bieksa and Martin helmeltless, the linesmen intervened before it got crazy and the rest was just a matter of bookkeeping.
Speaking of which, the Isles picked up two points on a night where the Penguins lost in regulation and the Capitals lost in overtime. Those two and the Rangers each have two games in hand on the Isles, but for the moment the Isles pulled a point ahead of Pittsburgh and two points behind Washington.
Paired (cursed?) with Brian Strait, Pelech had a fine defenseman's debut with 13 minutes of ice time and even a nice shooting opportunity on a setup by John Tavares. His defensive conscientiousness was as advertised as he positioned smartly, and safely, with a little dose of snarl.
He wore #50 and played in place of Marek Zidlicky. Will we see him again as the Isles return home and face Phoenix on Monday?
Nielsen, who often has the pulse of the team and had said it was just a matter of time that their recent efforts would be rewarded, fulfilled his own prophecies. And it was good:
"We came out with another great effort, so we’re definitely going home with a good feeling," Nielsen said.
tfw Kim Novak and Grace Kelly stop returning ur calls pic.twitter.com/T27fpW0nRu— SC (@stace_ofbase) November 14, 2015
Howie Rose Composite Stick Rant Opportunity of the Night
Nielsen had a chance at a hat trick but his stick shattered and let's be honest: If the Danish gods found the moment was right for a hat trick, they would have made it so.
Butch Goring Quote of the Night
"Either you're off, or you're on. You can't be both."
--The Islanders color man on the offside rule and the nature of binary systems in general.
MSG Segment of the Night
Meet the Boychuks. Between their rocket-blasting son, their tweeting children, and the cheerful parents, it's a guaranteed hit.