Travis Hamonic returned to the lineup to score the winner early in the third period as the New York Islanders pulled away from the Senators for a 5-2 win in Ottawa. It was unclear whether injured Johnny Boychuk would have to clean snow off their cars as reward for a good night's work.
After an unwelcome -- save for advancing Hamonic's recovery -- four days between games, the contest was the first of a three-in-four stretch for the Isles before the All-Star break -- assuming they get back home and snowstorm conditions don't cancel Saturday's game against the Flyers in Brooklyn.
They were set to fly back to New York as quickly as possible after the game, the two additional points in their bag merely keeping pace in the Metropolitan Division standings. The Rangers won in Carolina to stay one point ahead, albeit with one more game played.
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Between a fight just 2:52 into the game -- Matt Martin and Mark Borowiecki in a long tussle by today's standards -- and a succession of Islanders power plays, the game became eventful in a hurry. It took just 19 seconds into the Islanders' first power playbefore Nick Leddy scored through an absolute forest of legs after a nifty back pass from Frans Nielsen.
The Islanders had good work on all three first-period power plays within the first 13 minutes of the game, so it felt a little risky that they were only able to convert on the first one, and ended the period leading just 1-0.
Sure enough, the Senators got their first power play just three seconds into the second period when Matt Martin pinwheeled Bobby Ryan of the opening faceoff. Ryan then converted as the power play expired with a well-placed near-post shot to tie it at 1-1.
At the midway point the Senators took the lead when Curtis Lazar circled the net and fed low angle to Erik Karlsson, who scored as Halak was slow to seal his near post.
If that was a "turning point," it was immediately reversed by the Islanders fourth line. It goes down as an unassisted goal for Cal Clutterbuck, but each guy helped keep the puck in the zone and caroming toward the Ottawa net, in particular Casey Cizikas. A Clutterbuck rebound backhand scoop finally got it past Andrew Hammond.
The Isles were a bit sloppy the rest of the period and somewhat fortunate to get out of it with the score tied at 2-2.
Quickly Pulling Away
In his first game back from injury, Hamonic scored his third goal of the season after some great moves by John Tavares on the half boards three minutes into the third period.
A penalty to Chris Neil immediately afterward gave the Isles a great chance to build on the early lead, but Frans Nielsen was called for a phantom trip while he was on his knees in the corner of the Isles zone. No matter, however: After four-on-four created nothing, Tavares broke his scoring slump by sticking with his own rebound after Hamonic returned the favor, wheeling and slinging the puck to the net from the half boards. It was the captain's first goal since Jan. 2, a six-game drought.
With 13 minutes to go in regulation, the crowd was quieted, Erik Karlsson -- covering Tavares on the goal -- was frustrated, and the Isles were in great position to seal the win.
Jaroslav Halak kept it a two goal lead with nine minutes left when he was deked by Mark Stone, but stayed with the play on his back to glove the puck as it slid toward a gaping net.
Nick Leddy had a few pretty rushes that nearly produced fruit, and the fourth line went into "grind them down with tedium" mode before an Isles counterattack made it a three-goal lead with four minutes left.
Great passing from Nielsen to Nikolay Kulemin to Kyle Okposo left Okposo with an open net and prone Hammond to shoot at...but he lofted a pass for Kulemin instead. The gods were with the Isles here too, however, as the puck bounced off Jared Cowen and into the unguarded net.
In garbage time, the Isles practically toyed with the discouraged Sens, to the point that Tavares waltzed around the Ottawa zone and set up Cal Clutterbuck for two golden chances in the span of seconds.
Quote of the Night
The Isles play-by-play tandem discussing Erik Karlsson...
Butch: "Twenty-nine minutes a game, that's almost every other shift. Even my mathematicianal skills can figure that out."
Howie: "Mathematicianal...so you spent more time in math than you did in English class."
Meanwhile, Back Home
Do mind the shoulder, won't you?
Win tonight @NYIslanders and I personally will make sure your vehicles aren't covered in snow when you get back tonight...— Johnny Boychuk (@joboych) January 22, 2016
Well it is a good thing it isn't supposed to start snowing until tomorrow. Hahahahaha. Good win @NYIslanders #cleancars #YesYesYes— Johnny Boychuk (@joboych) January 23, 2016