Thomas Greiss stopped 26 shots, plus three more in a perfect shootout, to end his personal four-game losing streak as the New York Islanders got two crucial points the hard way in a 2-1 shootout win over the Carolina Hurricanes.
About a third of of Carolina's games go to overtime, so the Isles should've expected a 65-minute night. But in contrast to the 4-3 overtime win in Raleigh on Saturday night, this one was a stingy affair. The teams combined for just 13 shots in the first period, and the scoreless tie wasn't broken until 18:31 of the second.
With that goal by Derek Ryan putting the Isles down a goal after 40 minutes, it took the Isles a little longer than it did Saturday night to find the third-period equalizer.
The Islanders definitely weren't sharp in the first two periods, though it didn't seem so much a matter of effort as it was stingy Hurricanes defense and poorly executed passing and finishing by the Isles. There's a possibility some of that was due to the ice conditions.
Okposo called the ice "awful." As bad as a preseason game. "It needs to change." And he's the one that scored in the SO. #Isles— Brett Cyrgalis (@BrettCyrgalis) March 30, 2016
Whatever the case, the third period was much better, and the Isles were able o pick up the speed and get behind the Hurricanes defense much more. It looked like another one of those nights where Cam Ward would frustrate and own the Islanders.
Despite Ward's many saves, Josh Bailey might have become the focal point of a nightmare evening by forcing no save at all from Ward: He hit the outside of the post after being set up for an open net on the doorstep off a smart cross-slot feed from Anders Lee. Bailey, whose giveaway led to the Hurricanes' go-ahead goal late in the second period, returned to the bench while gazing at the rafters in horror.
But the Islanders kept pushing, including on two impressive power plays against a Carolina team that had only given up 10 power play goals since Jan. 1. Halfway through the second power play the Isles' work paid off when Lee deflected John Tavares' shot from the point just enough to elude Ward.
OT/Shootout: Just Need One
The teams played predictably conservatively down the stretch to seal the regulation point for each. The best chance in OT probably came off Tavares' stick, with Ward making a great kick save as Tavares bought space on a two-on-one.
Kyle Okposo opened the shootout with its only conversion on a smooth double deke. Playing in his 600th NHL regular season game, Frans Nielsen failed to get his trademark backhand upstairs on Ward. Tavares was once again allowed to attempt the world's least threatening shootout move this side of Ogie Ogilthorpe.
That meant Greiss needed to stop all three Hurricanes shooters to give the Isles two points. (Okay, he was beaten once, but the post had his back.) In doing so, he recorded his 20th win of the season, which doubles his previous career season-high.
The Isles needed both points (they're at 91 after 75 games) to keep pace in a tight Metro and Eastern wild card playoff race:
- The Penguins won in Buffalo (reversing a 3-0 deficit), also in a shootout, to climb to 94 points after 76 games and hold on to 3rd place in the Metro.
- The Bruins lost to the Devils in regulation, putting them at further risk of falling out all together with 88 points after 77 games.
- At posting time the Red Wings (87 points heading into the night), Boston's primary rival in the playoff chase if the Metro claims both wild card spots, were trailing in the third period in Montreal.
The Isles are back at it Thursday at home to the Blue Jackets, another Metro team ready to play spoiler.