The New York Islanders were continuously outplayed in a 5-3 home loss where the accumulation of opportunities ceded to the Carolina Hurricanes finally got the best of them by the second intermission.
Though the Islanders struck first on a great Michael Grabner rush and perfect shot, it was against the run of play and a sign of things to come. When Jay McClement directed an equalizer in with his skate to make it 1-1 late in the first period, it felt both unlucky and thoroughly deserved, as they had been playing with fire.
Chad Johnson kept the Isles in the game for the first 20 minutes, but was undone in the Hurricanes' four-goal second period, the second period in a row in which they mounted 18 shots on the Islanders goalie. Justin Faulk's power play goal gave the Hurricanes a lead they wouldn't relinquish, beating Johnson short side as he awkwardly scooted across the crease too late.
Nikolay Kulemin briefly brought the Islanders back to within one when he made it 3-2 on another brilliant individual rush midway through the second period, but that relief lasted less than two minutes, when Brad Malone's shot squeaked through to restore the visitors' two-goal lead.
A Michal Jordan backdoor power play goal with eight seconds left in the second confirmed that this game needn't be longer than 40 minutes to decide today's victor.
[ Box | Game Sum | Event Sum | Fancy/Shifts: War-on-Ice - Natural Stat Trick - HockeyStats.ca || Recaps: | Isles | NHL]
- John Tavares scored on a rebound in the third period to make the outcome look respectable. It was his 30th of the season and 65th point of the season, pulling him into the NHL points lead.
- In a twist, that goal began with Johnny Boychuk handling the puck behind the Hurricanes net, in some sort of "Gretzky's Office" mode.
- The Isles were Jekyll and Hyde on faceoffs: They won only 45 percent overall, but Tavares won 13 of his 15, while Brock Nelson lost 12 of his 17.
- With the win, the Hurricanes avoided a season sweep. They're selling off assets and last in the Metro, but it's the little things.
- Small solace, but two great highlights worth catching: Grabner's goal was a laser top-far-corner shot after zipping down the left wing to put both Canes defensemen back on their heels. Kulemin's goal was equally impressive in the completely opposite way: He simply bodied off Faulk in a bull race down the ice, kept the puck, and lifted it past Cam Ward as the Canes D sent Kulemin spinning to the ice. In an awful night, it's at least fun to have a couple of highlights like that.
- The Isles continued their D pairing experimentation beyond the permanent Boychuk-Nick Leddy pairing: Thomas Hickey paired with Travis Hamonic, Calvin de Haan with Brian Strait. Arthur Staple noted before the game that the staff doesn't like Hickey on the right side; and of course, one of the things they like about Strait is his...usage on either side.
- Dan was in the stands at this one for his "Last Call in Nassau" series. Pity his task of making some feature fun out of this one.
Overall, just a disappointing effort overall from the Isles -- and certainly fatigue, or at least any from the back-to-back, is no excuse given the visitors played and traveled last night. Count it as a mulligan in an otherwise impressive season where the Isles are routinely the team outplaying and outshooting the opposition.
But that's not to take away from the Hurricanes, who have been better lately and were quite responsible for pushing the play all evening long.
A lengthy, hectic February schedule comes to a close. The Islanders finished this stretch, which included four sets of back-to-backs, 9-5-1. They next play Tuesday in Dallas, the start of four straight on the road.
Quote(s) of the Night
Former Islander Jack Hillen, acquired by the Hurricanes earlier in the day, was the MSG 2nd intermission interview:
"It's actually refreshing to get back to playing hockey. When you step in and you don't know the systems yet, you just have to play on instinct. It's refreshing, kind of fun actually."
Asked why the Canes were controlling play through two periods, he deftly mastered some mid-sentence subject- team/tense agreement in his answer:
"We're playing quick. That's the key in this league. Get in on the forecheck and pressure the defense. Carolina did the same thing to us, yesterday…when I was playing for Washington. It's good to be on their side, we're playing fast."