For the second time in two weeks, the New York Islanders have grabbed a regulation win over the Nashville Predators, the team that was first overall in the NHL until a recent losing streak that now reaches five games.
Tonight's 4-3 win makes the Islanders just the sixth team to beat the Predators in Nashville this season -- and it's their first win there since Garth Snow was in goal.
After the Isles' only two-goal lead of the game disappeared in the blink of an inconclusive video review, Brock Nelson scored the winner with 6:08 left in regulation. With three points halfway through this four-game road trip, the Isles' 42nd win of the season pulled them back to two points ahead of the idle Rangers for first place in the Metropolitan Division.
The Run of Show
First Period: What's going on?
Two weeks ago on the Island, the Isles torched Pekka Rinne for five goals. The way they started the game, there was little reason to think they'd do something similar on Nashville's home ice.
But despite being outshot 15-5 in the first period, the Isles reached the first intermission leading 2-1 -- and it would've been 2-0 if not for a goal conceded to Colin Wilson in a crease battle with two seconds left in the first.
John Tavares had scored on a sharp wraparound, and Anders Lee had made it 2-0 on a power play deflection. Otherwise the period belonged to Jaroslav Halak and his posts, most notably when Halak directed Matt Cullen's breakaway try to the post in the opening minutes.
Second Period: Back to normal, but nothing's going on
In a scoreless second period, however, the Islanders got their game back. It began with uneventful but steady zone time in the Predators end, building up to a series of chances that forced Rinne to freeze the puck and calm things down on multiple occasions. Shots on goal in the second ended up 12-5 favoring the Isles.
Third Period: Le pant, le pant
It was going to be a nailbiting third period, but the Isles struck first to give themselves what you'd think would be breathing room. Nick Leddy scored his ninth while pinching in brilliantly -- as he is wont to do -- but his short-side shot wouldn't have been available if not for great work by Johnny Boychuk and Frans Nielsen to turn the Predators in circles of helpless chasing, ultimately opening the space for Leddy to jump into.
However, the Predators got one back less than two minutes later on a controversial goal. The shot from the point by Ryan Ellis was going high and wide but appeared to hit the shaft of Mike Ribeiro's stick. Ribeiro's blade and much of his stick was heading skyward, but it wasn't at all clear that it was too high when contact was made.
After a lengthy review -- the Situation Room rightly declaring it inconclusive -- the goal stood.
Then the Isles, or at least key forwards, checked off to let the Predators tie it just 31 seconds later on the game clock (but an eternity when including the review). In particular, it looked like Ryan Strome was the one most guilty of leaving a vacant open Predator forward alone to accept the pass at the doorstep and lift it past Halak.
So after no goals in nearly 30 minutes, there were three in just over two. Dogfight back on, and just 3:02 later, dogfight won.
Nelson's goal came on a well placed rebound from the high slot, made possible by Michael Grabner's "gimme-a-rebound" shot down the left wing.
The Predators pulled their goalie with a few minutes left, but the Isles were machine-like in their chips, their icing-averse clears, and their back pressure at the blueline to keep the Predators from ever threatening much.
Quote(s) of the Night
h/t newdamage in comments, noting a shot off Halak's post:
Jiggs: Close only counts in horseshoes, hand-grenades and one other thing Butch.
Butch: Hmmm, not sure what else.
Jiggs: Slow dancing.
It often felt like this:
Dont understand why there are so many one on three ozone entries and a subsequent odd man rush the other way. Where is everyone?— Keith (@KeithLHHockey) March 6, 2015
#Isles now dog-paddling in own end.— Arthur Staple (@StapeNewsday) March 6, 2015
But there was also this:
"You can see what [Anders], Brock and Ryan Strome are doing. They are really playing like veteran players; they're counted on in all situations and contributing offensively, making big plays for us. When you have that, it just makes you so hard to match up against."
--Captain Tavares in NHL Network's post-game
And finally, what it's all about, from Isle in Dixie, one of many Isles fans heard from on the scene tonight: