The Islanders’ nine-game road trip has been nearing its end, making its penultimate stop in gorgeous (or so I’ve been told) Vancouver.
The Islanders, entered the evening in the second wild card position. The race is still neck-and-neck-and-neck-and-neck, though.
Shane Prince left Tuesday night’s battle against the Oilers when his leg gave out awkwardly near the bench. Doug Weight insinuated that it could be a long-term injury; in the mean time, Stephen Gionta returns to the lineup in his place. Kulemin moves up from the fourth line to the Brock Nelson - Josh Ho-Sang line, while Gionta lined up next to Anthony Beauvillier and Cal Clutterbuck. Thomas Greiss manned the pipes, opposite Ryan Miller for the ‘Nucks.
Vancouver controlled the first period by a significant margin. Sadly for them, they weren’t able to turn it into a goal. Greiss made a save on a breakaway chance for Jayson Megna as he was being tailed by Nick Leddy. He stopped Granlund on a solo rush, and a shot from Sven Baertschi off a centering feed to the slot from Bo Horvat.
The Isles had few very chances throughout the period. However, they got a power play when Brandon Sutter decided he could crash into Greiss without attempting to stop. They weren’t able to score, but Ho-Sang continued to impress with his natural offensive talent:
Ho-Sang with a couple nice passes on PP2, but nothing doing and PP ends. Second unit has been far better than the first since JHS joined.— Arthur Staple (@StapeNewsday) March 10, 2017
They were finally able to capitalize on one of their chances when Josh Bailey recovered a loose puck, spun around, and fed John Tavares cross-ice for the first goal of the game. The top line has been lethal for the Islanders since Anders Lee, Tavares, and Bailey joined forces.
Reid Boucher, claimed off waivers from New Jersey by way of Nashville and New Jersey (I promise that’s real) took a centering pass from Horvat to tie the score less than two minutes into the period. It didn’t take long for the Canucks to grab the lead, either. Tavares thought he was passing to Travis Hamonic, but he was skating away and Baertschi was there to take the puck and deke around Greiss.
Some back-and-forth led to Bailey intercepting an offensive rush for Vancouver and sending it up the chute to Beauvillier. Beau jumped ahead for a breakway-ish chance, but he buried it nonetheless.
Brock Nelson put the Isles up 3-2 by deflecting a point blast from Leddy; Bailey got his third assist of the evening.
They played much better than they had all night, at least for the first half of the period. The Canucks began the mad scramble in the final five minutes of the period, but were held off until they were forced to pull Miller. With the extra attacker on for Vancouver, they nearly finished them off in regulation, but Clutterbuck failed to clear the blue line. Troy Stecher kept the puck in and the puck later came back to him, and he ripped it past Greiss with 19.3 seconds left in the period. They would gain a point but need extra time.
Andrew Ladd, in his return to his home area of Vancouver, tipped a beautiful pass from Calvin de Haan past Miller to give the Isles the extra point.
That was a pretty undeserved victory, but damn it feels good to steal two points like that (even if we did almost lose the extra one). Ho-Sang looks extremely comfortable out there, and it’s only a matter of time before one of his linemates buries one of those passes.
The Islanders close out their franchise-long road trip in St. Louis on Saturday night at 8:00 p.m. After that, they head back east for a back-to-back, home-and-home set with the Carolina Hurricanes, hosting them Monday and visiting them Tuesday.
Coming into this game having already won 4 and gaining a point in another, whatever they accomplished tonight was gravy. And boy was it delicious.