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Islanders 5, Canadiens 4 (OT): The Resurrection of Greiss

The struggling Islanders goalie stands on his head, stops 52 shots before Tavares OT winner

New York Islanders v Montreal Canadiens
No worries tonight, boys. Greiss got this.

The Canadiens are the desperate team and...wait the Islanders are supposed to be desperate here, too. I know it, they said so before the game, they really needed two points against the Eastern Conference’s most disappointing team.

Instead, the Canadiens outplayed — and indeed, out-desperated — the visitors all night. But thankfully the sub-.900 (no really: .882 coming into this game) Thomas Greiss chose this night to get his game back, Mathew Barzal did the things we increasingly expect from him, and John Tavares scored two goals including the overtime winner.

The Isles were outshot 56-24, yet they never trailed. They gave up two two-goal leads, yet they came away with two points and another ROW in the standings. 5-4 was the final for the Isles. It should have been 9-3 for the Habs.

[Game Sum | Event Sum | Corsica | Natural Stat Trick | HockeyViz]

First Period: Barzal giveth, the Isles giveth away

In the first period, Barzal picked up right where he and the Isles left off in their Saturday afternoon rout of the Rangers. (That one was 7-2, in case you forgot.) The wonder-rookie set up Anthony Beauvillier for great snipe down the left wing, reminiscent of his first NHL goal in this same hometown.

Then Barzal sniped himself on another speed rush with his copilot Jordan Eberle.

But what Barzal gave, the Isles defense taketh away. First Ryan Pulock got caught flat-footed in his own zone — a backward pass from Alan Quine sure didn’t help — and Pulock was harassed into a turnover along the right-side boards.

That left no one in front — Quine, Thomas Hickey and everyone had flown the zone — to cover NIcolas Deslauriers, who went between the legs Josh Bailey-style to get the Habs on the board. It came just 90 seconds after Barzal had created the 2-0 lead.

Four minutes later, Scott Mayfield’s turnover from behind the net was probably even worse. He was looking for Eberle but sent it soft and tasty to the point. After some chaos around the crease, Paul Byron slammed home a rebound.

Second Period: Let’s do that same thing, except catch a break

The Islanders’ go-ahead goal to make it 3-2 was a broken play all the way. That started with the breakout, which was more of a chip-and-thank you up the boards by defense (Scott Mayfield and partner Nick Leddy) looking to change.

Jordan Eberle made a nice exchange along the boards to feed the ignition switch, Barzal, at the top of the slot. When Barzal tried to find Beauvillier on the left side, his shot was blocked but Adam Pelech, who’d jumped on the ice for that tired D pairing, pounced on the loose puck for his first goal of the season.

The Islanders very nearly gave that lead up immediately, but Greiss was steady with some saves and his defense helped cleanup the shrapnel. Those chances included an ensuing power play with Thomas Hickey in the box, but instead John Tavares notched a shorthanded goal to make it 4-2.

The Isles captain jumped on an errant pass in the Isles zone and took it the length of the ice for a breakaway. He simply went forehand-backhand-forehand straight at Price, and beat the goalie stick side.

So...that made it four Islanders goals on just 10 shots, which I guess is what can happen when you have Barzal and Tavares, but also had to be driving the home team nuts. Lucky for the Habs, the Isles were in a giving mood all night.

They again tried to undo their two-goal immediately, this time with another penalty and hairy penalty kill. The Canadiens shot, stabbed and piled shots on Greiss. He did a good job keeping them out but couldn’t quite smother. Three Isles all went to his left to help out...leaving David Schlemko alone to put the rebound home.

But wait! Thankfully the NHL instituted a really painful and arduous reviewable offside through coach’s challenge. The Habs had the puck in the Isles zone forever, but it was on a baaarely offside entry. (I know, the rule is the rule. And at least this one was technically offside. But this is horrible.)

Byron Froese lifted his left skate off the ice as he straddled the line on the entry. It was a mistake, and if a linesman spotted it live he’d have no trouble calling it offside, no question. Still insane.

Stick-tap to Isles video review maestro Matt Bertani.

Not to worry for the Habs. Their offensive onslaught continued, and though the Islanders made it through the 19th minute of the period without giving up a (legal) third goal, they couldn’t make it 15 seconds further. Jonathan Drouin swept in the remainder of another mad scramble in front of Greiss.

Shots were 35-13 at the end of the second. {double-checks gamesheet} Yep, THIRTY-FIVE to THIRTEEN.

As a bonus, Scott Mayfield took a puck to the face when it rode up his stick on a block of Max Paciorietty’s shot. Mayfield did not come out for the start of the third period, and it wasn’t long before the team announced he was done for the night. (Fear not, Dennis Seidenberg is rested and ready.)

Third Period: Yep.

You might call it some tough luck, the way the Canadiens finally equalized with seven minutes to go. Greiss had been standing on his head (again). It came on a power play after Adam Pelech was called for a very soft, almost ridiculous call. John Tavares had a great chance to clear on the penalty kill, but he rushed his attempt from the corner, and it bounced harmlessly to the point.

The Canadiens kept it in and moved it around well. Jeff Petry scored on a blast with two Canadiens and Hickey all screening Greiss. They were being outshot 15-5 in the period, 50-18 overall with five minutes to go.

The Isles as a whole didn’t deserve better. But Greiss (and Barzal) sure did.

I would say maybe they were adjusting to having just five defensemen, but then that would be dishonest because I saw the first 40 minutes where they had all six.

At least they saved their best penalty kill of the night for late with the game tied. Greiss still had to make several stops, including some one-timers that he seemed to be timing perfectly all night long. But they got some clears (for once) and even a shorthanded two-on-one, Cal Clutterbuck shooting after Tavares fed him.

The Isles actually made a push, somehow, quite uncharacteristically, in the final minute of regulation. It started with Pulock pinching for some godforsaken reason in a game where they were bleeding chances against. It worked out okay, but...I mean Tavares was the guy covering for him at the blueline, so...little nerve-wracking.

Anyway, once the Barzal line came on for the second half of that final minute, Barzal nearly set up Eberle in the high slot (it slipped over Eberle’s stick), and Beauvillier had a backhand redirect that might’ve done something on another night.

Overtime: Hockey never makes sense and don’t you ever forget that

The three-on-three frame began with an excellent Greiss save on Pacioretty, and he gobbled up the rebound chance by Petry too. (If you’re wondering, Beauvillier took Bailey’s place on the usual starting trio with Tavares and Nick Leddy.)

There was a hilarious Only Barzal sequence where Barzal passed to teammates who should have been there, but weren’ he went ahead and retrieved his own pass — twice on the same shift.

But they kept on keeping on. Tavares had a good chance, Hickey helped him out in support, Tavares dropped for him as they orbited, Hickey’s pass bounced off Tavares’ skate ... but they did it all again and Tavares finished the rebound.

It was Tavares’ second goal of the game, and isn’t that like the captain to have an otherwise bad or absent game but still get two critical goals?