Going into tonight's contest, the Islanders didn't seem to stand a chance. Though they had won three straight (and actually looked halfway decent in doing so), the Wild were coming off of 11 straight wins. However, it appears that they may have gotten very lucky over the course of the streak, as they haven't exactly controlled play to a degree that would suggest they deserve to win 11 straight.
First Period: (Extremely Jean-Ralphio voice) MSG is the wooooooooorst
I love being able to watch this game right now— Isles Fanatics (@IslesFanatics) December 30, 2016
Well folks, MSG Networks missed most of the first period, other than a radio feed of Brendan Burke and Butch Goring. The Wild graciously offered us their video feed for the second half of the first, but it was very much delayed from the radio feed. Finally, with about 6 minutes left in the period, the MSG audio and video feed were back on track.
The two teams traded a few chances but didn't get much going until the second half of the period. Marco Scandella snuck around Thomas Hickey and took a pass from Mikael Granlund, beating Jaroslav Halak on a short-side shot that he should've had.
Happily for us though, the Isles would get one right back. The Ladd-Quine-Chimera seems to have found some chemistry and Andrew Ladd in particular has looked very sharp the last few games. As they entered the zone, Ladd sent a cross-ice feed to Jason Chimera, who ripped one over the shoulder of Devan Dubnyk. Another goal the netminder probably should've had, but we'll take it.
Anders Lee, another red-hot player and Minnesota native, did something not hot by taking an interference penalty. I'm not entirely sure how the Wild didn't find a way to score on it, as the Islanders struggled badly to clear the zone, but Halak stood tall and absolved himself of his weak first goal. The period would end with the score tied at one.
Second Period: The unraveling
The Islanders did not get a shot off until the 15:00-mark, when Chimera found himself on a breakaway that did not feature a scary shot.
Tavares was tripped up by Matt Dumba, giving the Islanders a power play chance on which they capitalized. Nick Leddy, also a Minnesota native, ripped a slapper from the point and it trickled past Dubnyk. Tavares and Bailey got the assists.
Leddy one-timer squeaks through Dubnyk and crawls over line, PPG, 2-1 #Isles at 6:15.— Arthur Staple (@StapeNewsday) December 30, 2016
The goal woke the Isles up, as they were able to generate a few more chances before Anthony Beauvillier was tripped up by Tyler Graovac, who I'm now learning exists. This power play was not as effective as the previous, though Brock Nelson (ANOTHER Minnesota native, now I'm as insufferable as people from Minnesota who always remind you they're from Minnesota, State of Hockey) had a nice tip. I'm glad the team was awake to watch what happened next.
Chris Stewart tied the game when he took a pass from Jason Pominville and fired one off the shoulder of Halak, beating him short-side again. Halak's second weak goal.
35 seconds later, Jared Spurgeon took a touch pass from Mikko Koivu and fired it under the leg of Halak, his third softie. To be fair, the defense on the goal was atrocious.
And, to put the icing on the cake, Jordan Schroeder broke in on goal and Halak was able to get a limb on it, but the puck deflected from the point and found its way back on to Schroeder's stick, and then the back of the net.
3 goals in 1:20, each as savable as the next, and Halak's night was mercifully over. Everyone has an off-night, and he was on last game. Jean-Francois Berube replaced him for the rest of the game. The period would end 4-2.
Third Period: The... raveling? Or not so much
Ryan Strome and Erik Haula took identical, not matching, roughing minors, so the period began 4-on-4. It would serve to help the Isles, as Shane Prince carried over the blue line and fed Nelson to complete the 2-on-1 and put the Isles within one, one minute into the third.
Nelson wasn't done yet, as less than a minute later, he carried around a Wild defender and just throwing it Dubnyk, somehow getting it past him. Quite a show he put on for his friends and family. Dubnyk gave up more than 3 goals for the first time all season. Sadly, it wouldn't matter.
And it had to be Nino. Well, he didn't get credit for it, since it went off the leg of Erik Haula, but Nino Niederreiter skated in with Haula and threw it toward the net with Haula skating in front of him. The deflection was nowhere near where Berube had set up.
Alan Quine, who has played considerably better lately, spun and crashed into the boards, jamming his skate and awkwardly bending his leg and ankle. He needed help getting up, but was skating on his own by the time he reached the bench. Tough break for him - he's the kinda player who needs every single opportunity he can get to stay in the NHL, at least at this current juncture.
The Islanders pulled the goalie, but to no avail, as Granlund put home the empty netter. Some dude named Christian Folin was jabbing with Ladd down low to give the Isles a power play to end the game, and the chippiness that was pervasive throughout the contest came to a head when Dubnyk gave Lee a two-hander to the hip after the whistle, creating a melee. The Wild won their 12th straight.
Well, at least there's this to maybe look forward to:
The Islanders did play well tonight, and the game was exciting, but they still come away with no points. They will visit the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday, New Years Eve, at 7:00 p.m. ET. If you have other plans you're thinking about bailing for the game, don't. Although Andrew Ladd will make his first trip to Winnipeg as an Islander (not as a former Jet though - he did that toward the end of last season).
After that, the Isles won't play again until next Friday against the Avalanche in Colorado, getting their CBA-mandated 5-day break while in the frigid west and north. Lucky them!