Ryan Miller shut out the New York Islanders for 59 minutes on Sunday afternoon, but he would have to wait six more minutes plus a breakaway contest to be the victorious goalie of record. His Vancouver Canucks prevailed in a shootout, 2-1 (1-0), after Ryan Strome spoiled his shutout bid with 51 seconds left in regulation.
Strome's was the only Islanders shot to beat Miller, who made 47 official saves plus three more in the shootout. No one put it by him in overtime, and Frans Nielsen, Kyle Okposo and John Tavares each failed to convert in the extra-extra session. Radim Vrbata's tally past Jaroslav Halak held up as the difference.
The win at least temporarily put the Isles back into second place in the Metro Division, where first-place Washington and third-place New York were battling in D.C.
The Canucks also lost Henrik Sedin in this game on a hit that earned Mikhail Grabovski a game misconduct.
A Holiday Afternoon Turns
With under two minutes left in the first period, things took a turn toward intense "old-time" hockey instead of a sleepy Sunday afternoon game between two out-of-conference teams from opposite coasts.
Grabovski cut off Sedin on a pass up the boards in the neutral zone and drove him right into the boards in front of the Canucks bench. The hit wasn't from behind but it was from a dangerous distance to the boards and slammed Sedin into them hard. That resulted in a five-minute major for boarding and a game misconduct for Grabovski.
Sedin lay on the ice for a while, shaken up but at least conscious, and didn't return. Though it looked like his head hit the boards, it may have been a shoulder or collarbone that caused him to stay out based on how he held himself as he was being tended to by trainers.
The typical tussling that happened after that play meant Matt Bartowski would serve a roughing first before the Canucks power play, now reduced to three minutes thanks to his penalty, wouldn't start until the second period. And that meant John Tavares could be on the ice for four-on-four, where the Canucks targeted him with a rough and a high stick, Ryan Strome came to his defense, and general testosterone mayhem broke out in multiple spots on the ice.
Strome and Alex Biega sort of tried to fight but were kept apart -- given coincidental roughing penalties -- and Jared McCann took two for the initial high-stick on Tavares.
The remainder of all of that was: 22 seconds of 4-on-3 power play for the Isles (six seconds of which burned at the end of the third, plus 16 more at the start of the second), followed by 1:38 of 4-on-4, and finally 1:22 of uninterrupted Canucks power play time to serve out the rest of Grabovski's five-minute major.
Nothing eventful happened during that stretch, and the Isles killed off the remainder, only to have Marek Zidlicky head to the box for roughing shortly after Grabovski's penalty expired.
Derek Dorsett then went full Steve Ott -- or really, just full Dorsett -- and drove his shoulder right into Tavares' head while Tavares was still battling for a faceoff win at the dot. He got two minutes for roughing, but the message for the second half of the afternoon had been sent.
The Isles managed five shots on that power play but Miller held strong, a theme that would carry until the final minute of play.
Every time the Isles seemed to generate something, however, they shot themselves in the foot. A breakout miscue left Sven Baertschi all alone in the slot, from which Jaroslav Halak absolutely robbed him. But instead of be buoyed by that save, they got careless again shortly thereafter. Calvin de Haan had lost his stick and handed his borrowed one back to Nikolay Kulemin as he prepared to change, but the neutral zone turnover kept de Haan on the ice and the Isles scrambling until Ben Hutton sneaked in to score his first NHL goal.
The Final Push
The third period began with two Islanders icings...and then a Miller glove save on Josh Bailey every bit as good as Halak's on Baertschi. Rather than be trapped for a whistle, however this one rebounded out for Calvin de Haan, whose shot hit...something before going out of play.
Outside of some breakaways conceded as they pushed for an equalizer -- two to McCann, one as he came out of the box -- the Isles absolutely bombarded Miller throughout the rest of the period. Third-period shots were 15-3 at the midway point and 22-4 by the final horn. Their chances got better and better, with Kyle Okposo robbed twice on the most memorable ones, but Miller would not break. As the Isles' effort increased, shots got increasingly desperate but things looked increasingly hopeless.
With Halak pulled for a sixth attacker, Strome unleashed a beauty of a wrister from the left wing faceoff circle, using Anders Lee as a screen to find the utmost top far corner past Miller.
It salvaged a strong effort on the day by the Isles, even if the bonus point was left uncaptured.
No one did what they wanted to do outside of Vrbata.
Nielsen opened with a not-sure-which-way move, stumbling and crashing into the post as he tried a forehand move. Alex Burrows took the Rob Schremp circuitous route and -- I swear -- actually carried the puck backwards high in the zone before approaching Halak, who made a nice save. Okposo at least had a strong five-hole try but Miller closed it. Vrbata's move was deke and he needed to lift his backhand to get it by Halak. Tavares went in slow, shot wide.
The Isles dressed seven defensemen for warmups in order to evaluate a "gametime" decision. Turns out it was Adam Pelech, with some kind of upper body injury, who sat for this one. Scott Mayfield replaced him.
Not Relevant But Still Cool
With three minutes left, a classic, textbook executed hip check by de Haan on Emerson Etem. No injury, no devastation, just a fantastic hip check which de Haan, amid all his smooth skating and good puckhandling, occasionally reminds you he can do.
Sparky Looking Slimmer
The Isles now have a relatively long break in the schedule before a busy finish before the All-Star break: Next game is Friday in Ottawa, before facing Philadelphia back home on Saturday and Detroit on Monday night.