Chad Johnson was strong again, particularly important during the deadlocked first two periods when the Coyotes gave the Isles a run for their money.
After a sloppy first period, the Isles mixed up their forward lines to yield a variety of different looks as the Islanders completed their busiest stretch of the season. That shuffle meant there were five different Isles goal scorers, including Kael Mouillierat's first NHL goal at age 27.
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The General Sequence of Things
Though the Isles held an edge in shots over the first two periods (25-20), the feisty Coyotes were relentless on the backcheck and in their refusal to give up on plays and force Isles turnovers high in the zone. In between Isles rushes and shots, the Coyotes had several sustained shifts in the offensive zone, some of which produced few if any shots but still burned Isles energy.
In other words, it was an optimal Dave Tippett effort through the first 40 minutes.
Jack Capuano mixed up lines heading into the second period, bumping Colin McDonald to Anders Lee's spot on the top line while sending Lee to a Kid Line reunion. That reunion paid immediate dividends.
Just 37 seconds into the second period, Brock Nelson sprang Travis Hamonic for a rush up the right wing, which he carried deep into the zone to allow time for Ryan Strome to drag the defense on his rush to the net. That left Lee wide open for Hamonic's pass in front, with enough time for Lee to pull the puck to his backhand and lift it high past Mike Smith for the first goal.
The Coyotes wouldn't quit, however, and after they survived a five-shot Islanders power play, they mounted two consecutive shifts of heavy pressure. Those didn't produce goals, but a hot potato sequence in their own zone created a 3-on-2 for the visitors. Mark Arcobello didn't need to pass, instead shooting around Johnny Boychuk for a sharp snipe inside the post on Johnson's stick side.
If reaching the third period tied against the slumping Coyotes made things uncomfortable, the Isles quickly changed that:
- At 3:18, Kael Mouillierat made a nice holdup play after gaining the blueline, backhanding toward Nikolay Kulemin in the slot, where Matt Martin picked up the loose puck to score upstairs. (It was Mouillierat's first NHL point, but the scorekeepers wouldn't say so until after the game.) 2-1 Isles.
- A minute after the go-ahead goal, John Tavares and Ryan Strome played magic tricks with the puck before setting up Johnny Boychuk in the high slot to ring one in off the post. 3-1 Isles.
- Three minutes later, Mouillierat was left all alone in the low slot and absolutely buried his first NHL goal inside the far post after Kulemin and McDonald dug the puck out from behind the net. Mouillierat reacted like he's done that a time or two before. 4-1 Isles.
- Two minutes after that, Nelson shafted the airborne puck into the goal on the rebound of a Josh Bailey shot after a McDonald setup. 5-1 Isles at 9:10 of the third.
And that was that. The second half of the third period was going through the motions. The Isles did kill off a late penalty, their second successful penalty kill (two shots allowed) on the night.
Also of note: Cal Clutterbuck and Oliver Ekman-Larsson had several run-ins, one at the end of the second period when OEL felt Clutterbuck put a shot on after rather than at the buzzer. Another happened with seconds left in the game when Ekman-Larsson took a mild Clutterbuck at the half boards, a collision Clutterbuck naturally implied was a dive.
Ekman-Larsson was the cause of the Islanders' only power play on the night, after he kept Brock Nelson outside but then crosschecked him awkwardly into the corner boards. Ekman-Larsson looked apologetic, but the bad blood was already stirred.
Quote of the Night
"Well if you don't hear from Butchie for a few minutes, it's because he's off threatening some of our off-ice officials."
--Howie Rose, after the scorers called Matt Martin's goal unassisted, on what should have been (and scorekeepers only later made official) Kael Mouillierat's first NHL point
For the first time since Feb. 1-2, the Isles now have two days between games. That will be a chance to help rest some tired bodies and sore joints (including Frans Nielsen's ankle), before they finish this week's homestand with a back-to-back against the Flames and Hurricanes on Friday and Saturday.