The Islanders hosted the Montreal Canadiens in each team's final game before the All-Star Break, which starts tomorrow. Both teams are dealing with their fair share of injuries, so the All-Star Break might be a welcome reprieve in which injured players can hopefully heal.
The Islanders saw both Anders Lee and Anthony Beauvillier return to the lineup, having dealt with illness and a bruised foot, respectively. Out came Stephen Gionta and Shane Prince, the latter of whom was a tough scratch for coach Doug Weight.
Weight said taking Prince out was a tough decision. "He'll be back in soon."— Arthur Staple (@StapeNewsday) January 26, 2017
They were also without Travis Hamonic again, as well as Thomas Hickey, who is dealing with an undisclosed lower-body injury. Scott Mayfield returned to action in Hickey's place. Weight reunited the once-dominant pair of Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk, as well as a longtime Bridgeport pair Mayfield with Adam Pelech. Thomas Greiss manned the pipes, or whatever hockey people say, at one end, with Carey Price at the other end.
Those injured for Montreal are Alex Galchenyuk, Brendan Gallagher, Andrei Markov, and David Desharnais. Galchenyuk and Gallagher in particular are two first line caliber players, so perhaps their absence offers the Isles the chance to get off the schneid - coming into tonight, they had lost seven straight in regulation to the Canadiens going back to 2013-14, and were 1-9-1 in their last 11. A tall task for the Brooklyn hockey club (in Butchie parlance) to keep pace in the tightening Eastern Conference playoff race.
First Period: Sacré Bleu!
For the last three games, the Islanders have come out rather slow to start, at least being able to turn it on by the end. That didn't happen this time. To put it simply, the Islanders absolutely tore into the Canadiens throughout the first third of the game. They opened the period with a great chance right off the face-off, set up by a stretch pass from Calvin de Haan tipped to John Tavares by Anders Lee.
Andrew Ladd scored for the Isles, in only his second game back from injury, after his missed pass to Alan Quine popped out toward the blue line. Mayfield stepped up and threw the puck toward the net and it deflected off Nathan Beaulieu. Ladd picked it up, spun around, and beat Price five-hole.
The Islanders finished the period up 14-4 in shots on goal, including four on a strong power play and a chance for Tavares in the final two minutes, but only up a goal. Having a world-class goalie can be nice, I gather.
Second Period: Weber fires the cannon
Montreal Arturi Lehkonen, a young Finn whose name sounds like a character straight out of a comic book, nearly snuck a wraparound past Greiss but he was able to get his toe against the post in time.
Dennis Seidenberg took a tripping penalty, and the Canadiens capitalized on this chance rather quickly. A missed pass/shot came out to Shea Weber at the point, and he let one go in a makeshift one-timer. Greiss was up high trying to cut down the angle and got his glove on it, but it skipped off his glove, over him, and into the back of the net. He does have the hardest shot in the league. Butchie made a valiant effort to get the refs to look at the play, thinking Alexander Radulov may have gotten a high stick on it behind Greiss, but to no avail.
Mark Barberio was accused of tripping up Casey Cizikas (it was really Zach Redmond), giving the Isles their next power play chance. Toward the end of it, Boychuk took a shot so hard it broke the stick of Phillip Danault, leaving the Habs with three guys and a statue for twenty seconds, but there was no goal to be had.
Among the other chances for the Isles were a shot that rang off the crossbar for Ladd and successive shots from Lee and Josh Bailey (Lee's a deflection, Bailey's the rebound), and the Isles finished the period up 30-13 in shots on goal.
Third Period: Who are these guys?!
Lee first was sent flying by the glove of Price as he barreled toward the net, and later in the shift was hooked by Weber. Bailey had a sweet chance in the slot and Tavares was wide open in his circle, and hit the iron, but no goals were scored on the man advantage.
The rare-and-always-confusing actual penalty with embellishment reared its ugly but convenient head (I still don't get why they only call embellishment when an actual penalty occurs). It worked out in our favor, though. Ladd took a pass from Tavares, who won the battle in the corner, and ripped it over Price's shoulder.
The Habs swarmed right after that, but Greiss was there to make a couple of gorgeous stops, including one from his back.
Andrew Shaw, noted arse, actually kind of got jobbed on what looked like a reputation call - he got tangled up with Bailey and was called for taking him down. He was angry and protested, but luckily for him, he didn't have to sit in the box long. Tavares won the face-off back to Bailey, who beat Price from the point only three seconds into the power play.
I kinda felt bad calling Shaw an arse despite him not having actually done anything. I mean, he is, but he hadn't done anything yet. Of course, he would live up to his reputation, taking a late run at Brock Nelson. Nelson wasn't hurt, and only Lee was called for a penalty after he came to Nelson's defense. Despite having a sixth skater on the whole time, the Habs couldn't muster a shot on goal the whole power play.
Quick Reaction: *very Kramer voice* Oh mama
Might be the anastethia talking, but this has arguably been best #isles game of season.— Andy Graziano (@AndyGraz_SNY) January 27, 2017
[Feel better, Andy!]
That was one of the best games the Islanders have played this season, regardless of the outcome. They smothered Montreal and generated 42 shots on goal, matching their season-high. I don't know who these folks are or what they've done with the real team, but they can stick around if they would like.
The Flyers beat the Maple Leafs, the Bruins beat the Penguins, the Hurricanes lost to the Kings, and the Devils lost to the Capitals, all in regulation. As of 9:56 p.m., the Lightning and the Panthers are tied at one with 5:00 left in the third (please someone score in regulation) and the Sabres were tied with the Stars at two in the second.
What a way to go into the break, with points in six straight dating back to Cappy's Last Stand. Hopefully they keep it going when they return. Certainly the best I've felt about this team this season.
UPDATE: Ricky likes Thomas Greiss, perhaps a bit too much
I was watching the post-game and almost peed my pants. Thank you to Craig Dixon for capturing this beautiful moment in history. It is a refreshing change of pace having a radio talking head in our corner, thank you Rick DiPietro.
Nothing! Depending on your feelings of All-Star Weekend, anyway. No, I'm sure it will be fun for all who attend and watch. I probably will watch as well. I do enjoy the Skills Competition, though they took away the most fun part, the Breakaway Challenge, because they're the NHL. Ol' Reliable is our only representative this year. Please don't get hurt, buddy. Love you.
The Islanders return from the break on Tuesday the 31st, 7:00 p.m., against the Washington Capitals at the Barclays Center. They'll play the final game of this spectacular six-game homestand (also the beginning of Weight's tenure) that's seen them go 4-0-1 thus far and look good doing it.