The Predators, the NHL's first-place club even after tonight's regulation loss, will have their chance at revenge exactly two weeks from now in Nashville.
The lone downer for the night, and it's not an insignificant one, was Mikhail Grabovski leaving the game and appearing concussed by a big hit from Eric Nystrom.
The Islanders opened up a 3-0 lead in the first period but bobbled a bit by giving up late goals in the first and second periods before restoring the three-goal lead with a counterattack surge in the third, after which the Preds looked done and the Isles had chances to make it an even bigger margin.
The Isles do this thing where they get three-goal leads a lot but then, as four-goals are even rarer than three-goal leads, make you nervous at some point during the rest of the game. Give up one, then it's just two. Give up two, then it's just one. The nerves!
This season had a couple of memorable ones that ended in losses mid-winter, but the vast majority of the time they win the game and still do so in style -- sometimes in "keep pushing" style, sometimes in "that was good lead protection" style. And of course, usually in some form of "hockey happens."
We will still pine about it because we're Isles fans (I use the royal "we," but life's too short for me to go on rampages), and without even looking yet I'm sure there was plenty in our game neurosis thread tonight when it got to 3-2. But the bottom line is they won, played their game more often than not, and beat the team that holds first place in the NHL on Feb. 19.
Life is okay.
Notes and Quips
- Lubomir Visnovsky returned to the lineup, and Calvin de Haan drew the non-Donovan scratch on the blueline. He had a really nice game two days ago and Jack Capuano spoke of health and matchups in the morning scrum, so you wonder if it's more of the former, or a blend of both that happens this time of year.
- Oh, our whipping-boy Brian Strait remained in the lineup...and naturally scored the first goal. #lineuptrolling
- It was a fantastic goal, too, starting with a Michael Grabner forecheck, a great Frans Nielsen pass across the high slot, and a smart pinch and quick shot from Strait that slid through Pekka Rinne.
- Strait's goal was one minute into the game. Johnny Boychuk and John Tavares added to it midway through the first the way you'd expect them to: Boychuk with a blast from the point, Tavares with a power play rebound. It was Tavares' 29th of the season.
- Jaroslav Halak
takes over sole possession ofties the record for the most victories in a single season for any Islanders goalie. (Whoops, getting ahead of myself. The other three guys, you may have heard of: Smith, Osgood, DiPietro.)
- Filip Forsberg is a sick human being, and he virtually created the first Preds goal by himself by shooting from one corner, a rebound, chasing the puck in the other corner, then circling to the slot to score while falling down.
- The Isles' counterattack goals in the third were delightful, and got a loud rocking crowd chanting the rest of the way. Former Blackhawk and thus Preds bane-by-default Nick Leddy jumped up in the play after Matt Martin cleared the zone to Colin McDonald, who took the hit to make the play to Leddy, who shot high and clanged it in off iron.
- Speaking of iron: With the score 3-1, Thomas Hickey hit the crossbar and Leddy hit the post; either would have made it 4-1 and made the second intermission more comfortable.
- MSG said it was the second time this season the Islanders got three goals from their defensemen.
- Oh, but Bailey's goal: Great vision by Anders Lee to slow the entry across the blueline with a pass to Tavares, who waited high for Bailey to jump into the play while Lee made a distraction of himself down low. Bailey faked the shot, faked the pass...and nearly had the tuck-in attempt pass harmlessly away. Instead, the puck caromed in off a Predator, and the Isles were rewarded for a nice play.
With the win, the Isles tied the Predators for most wins in the NHL with 39. Again, life is kind of okay for Isles fans.
In his last game at Nassau Coliseum where his father is a god, Son of Nystrom took out Mikhail Grabovski with a hard, high check midway through the first period. ("High" as in upper body; it looked clean and not head-targeting to me. The Isles jawed at Nystrom, which you can see in the video above, but that was it.)
While being treated by trainers, Grabovski eventually got up under his own power but did not return. This is not a good sign; he missed time -- and then struggled a bit on his return -- early this season after taking a high hit in a similar spot with concussion-like consequences from John Scott.
So the Isles played with 11 forwards for the final 50 minutes or so. Worse, with Casey Cizikas out on IR, the Isles were getting a very enticing look with four offensively dangerous centers as Grabovski had slid to a regular role at center for the first time as an Islander.
Coach Jack Capuano, who is often NHL-vague about injuries, particularly in post-game, minced no words in saying Grabovski will be out a while, per Arthur Staple of Newsday.
Quote of the Night
Sorry, not-sorry. Told you so.