Tonight, the Islanders hosted the Ottawa Senators, a team that, entering tonight, held home-ice advantage in the Atlantic Division despite a goal differential of -7. Divisional playoffs, folks. Not that it matters to us anyways!
The Senators were without Mike Hoffman, in the midst of serving of a two-game suspension for cross-checking Logan Couture in the back of the head. He's good. They started Andrew Hammond, who hadn't played an NHL game since October. The Senators were also on a back-to-back, having played the New Jersey Devils the night before, though in Ottawa and not across the Hudson River.
Cappy: "Casey (upper body) is going to be a little while. He hasn't even hit the ice yet, so we don't expect him anytime soon."— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) December 18, 2016
This meant that Anthony Beauvillier would play his second straight game, the first time he's played in back-to-back contests since November 28 and 30 against the Flames and the Penguins (he would then be healthy-scratched for the next three games - development!)
Ryan Strome returned to the third line (if we haven't already, we should probably just start calling it the third line, at least for now) between Nikolay Kulemin and Cal Clutterbuck.
Jean-Francois Berube, who didn't make an on-ice appearance until December 10 (for five minutes), started his second straight after making 34 of 37 saves against Buffalo.
*Rob Lowe as Chris Traeger voice* This team makes LITERALLY... no sense at all.
First Period: I thought they played last night?
On their first shift, the Isles' top line of Anders Lee with John Tavares and Josh Bailey created yet another scoring chance, as Lee, in his usual spot in front of the net, redirected a point shot across the crease to Bailey, who was just unable to get a stick on it.
With Dennis Seidenberg pinching, Ryan Dzingel gained a step on Tavares and de Haan, Bobby Ryan trying to hit him with a stretch pass. The initial pass missed, but Dzingel, who took Hoffman's spot on the top line, retrieved it and quickly dished it to Kyle Turris barreling toward the net, forcing Berube to make a pretty save.
Ottawa's top line found themselves on a 3-on-1 against Calvin de Haan (so Seidenberg was out of position again). Dzingel gave Turris a hard pass across the dots. Turris's shot caught Bobby Ryan in the arm and trickled past Berube, giving the Sens a 1-0 lead halfway through the period.
Tavares danced around Jean-Gabriel Pageau but couldn't hold the puck. Josh Bailey grabbed it and fed Seidenberg at the point. With a large crowd in front of the net, Seidenberg ripped a shot that was redirected into the crease, forcing Hammond to dive, injuring himself. Mike Condon, who started the night before, replaced him.
The Sens didn't let the injury shake them, however. On the next shift, Swedish wunderkind Erik Karlsson played Kulemin like a fiddle at the point before going across the blue line, and Stone's one-timer was tipped in front by Zack Smith. 2-0 Ottawa at 17:20, and that's how the period would end.
Not a great start, and Ottawa led in the shots department, but the Isles had a lot of chances in tight.
Second Period: A bit better
Jason Chimera rushed down the wing and shot the puck at Condon, who made the save. On the ensuing face-off, Tavares lost but Bailey intercepted the pass and quickly flicked it at Lee, who fired the puck over the shoulder of Condon to put the Isles within one.
Clutterbuck and Marc Methot jostled, and Methot put Clutterbuck in a headlock, but Cal was the one whistled down for interference. Phaneuf slid in and finished off a nice tic-tac-toe passing play from Stone, but Berube was there, as were three Islanders pushing Phaneuf into the iron. Sometimes they do things right. Also, Karlsson blasted one from the point that LITERALLY knocked Berube's stick out of his hand, after he just got his shaft on it.
The Islanders would kill off the penalty, and Clutterbuck and Tavares engaged in a 2-on-1. Clutterbuck lost the puck, but it was grabbed and shot by Bailey. The rebound popped loose for Tavares, who had a yawning net, but couldn't corral the puck on the backhand in time.
Travis Hamonic tried a drop pass that was picked off and fired at the skate blade of Berube by Stone. Later in the play, seemingly determined to right his wrong, Hamonic grabbed a weak shot from the point and hit Beauvillier with a stretch pass, giving him a breakaway that he would finish beautifully to tie the game at two. Credit to Berube for making a save in close off a turnover.
The good feelings wouldn't last long, unfortunately. On the following shift, Thomas Hickey would take a hooking penalty. Ottawa would score within the first 20 seconds of the man advantage, Karlsson again dancing around at the blue line to make a play. This time, he shot the puck at the crowd in front of the net, and Stone cleaned up the garbage to give the Senators the lead again, 3-2. The Isles abysmal PK struck again:
#Isles PK now 7 for last 15.— Arthur Staple (@StapeNewsday) December 19, 2016
Just before the end of the period, Dzingel took a tripping penalty to give the Isles a power play. They were able to set up for a few passes before the second ended, but the penalty carried over to the third.
Third Period: This Condon has no holes
The carried-over power play produced a good chance that was started by a Strome zone entry and that was finished when Strome skated in to finish a centering pass, but couldn't slip it past Condon as the penalty expired.
Five minutes into the period, Lee caught the Senators in a change and Tavares took his pass and sped in alone, ringing one off the crossbar. It would be originally called a goal, but Tavares didn't celebrate it, and after a quick review, it was called back.
After Condon made a big save to keep his team in it, the Sens carried back the other way. Stone's shot went wide, but it was picked up behind the net and wrapped around past Berube by Brassard to give Ottawa a two-goal cushion.
John Tavares is John Tavares, and among the things he does are try to take over a game himself if he feels it necessary. It's been very necessary this season. Unfortunately, it hasn't been a terribly successful effort. He battled against Methot and Cody Ceci behind the net, juggling the puck but ultimately unable to get a shot off.
Curtis Lazar hauled down Seidenberg to give the Isles a last-chance desperation power play. They tried furiously in the first minute to get something going, and then after too many passes, Smith retrieved the puck and fired the puck at the empty net to seal the deal. Tom Pyatt would take a penalty to give the Isles another chance, though down three, it would've taken a lot. They went 6-on-4 but couldn't score, and Pyatt would put another one in the empty net.
Don't try this at home, kids
Somebody was That Guy tonight during the second period, sharing their most intimate moment on a Jumbotron in a smelly arena on a Sunday night. No, but really, good for them:
The Isles are off tomorrow, and will be headed up to Boston to take on the Bruins at TD Garden at 7:00 p.m. The game will be on MSG+2, so prepare accordingly. Or don't. You probably wouldn't be missing much.
Also, I wouldn't expect changes any time soon, unless the owners want to clear house:
This is Garth meeting with season ticket holders ahead of tonight's game, taking time out of his busy schedule acting in Bond movies in the 1960s. I'm glad they all "believe" in each other. That's all it takes to win. Not skill or anything.