In an exemplary case of how hockey is a long process sport with individual moments that sabotage said process, the Islanders held the lead in their worst periods and lost the game in their best ones.
The first two periods were the familiar outshot by a 2:1 margin show, yet they escaped each of them with a one-goal lead -- largely thanks to Pekka Rinne, who would later redeem himself — and had chances to build a three-goal lead at one point in the second. Then they were outstanding in the third period, but just couldn’t find the needed insurance goal and instead were forced to overtime after Nashville scored with a sixth attacker.
In overtime, too, the longest pressure was applied by the Isles but they were finally victimized by the counterattack that often comes as the punishment for applying sustained pressure at 3-on-3.
In the grand scheme, there were modest signs of light for a struggling team, and even the first two periods weren’t quite as lopsided as the shot clock. That is not how one describes a good club, but it’s at least something. Instead of “boy were they luck to win that one” or “boy did that look every bit as horrible as the final score” we have upgraded, for a night, to “Hey, they actually could have won that one and did many things a hockey team is supposed to do.”
They also survived shorthanded, playing with five defensemen for most of the game after losing Scott Mayfield to injury on a shot block just three shifts into the game.
For a change of pace, the Islanders scored first — and early. The penalty calls were overflowing throughout the first period, and John Tavares cashed in his 27th goal on their first power play opportunity.
Nifty work from the whole unit, particularly Anders Lee behind the net to Josh Bailey for a sweet pass back across the crease.
The Isles had some lineup changes, with Sebastian Aho coming back in for Dennis Seidenberg to play next to Nick Leddy.
#Isles Lines:— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) February 5, 2018
Halak in goal
But that Leddy-Aho pairing was victimized when Aho was caught in no man’s land along the boards in the neutral zone with a man streaking behind him. Leddy came over to cover the puck carrier Kyle Turris, who slid a pass to the far doorstep where Kevin Fiala beat Aho to the net.
Fiala’s equalizer came 12 minutes in, and he scored again 90 seconds later when he picked a rebound up off the back boards.
The Isles were outshot 18-9 in the first period — same as it ever was — but some good work and bounces helped them overcome that on the scoreboard. First Ryan Pulock tied it up just 38 seconds after Fiala’s second goal with an outright cannon that overpowered Rinne
Then Casey Cizikas sent the Isles to the intermission with a lead when he sprinted out of the penalty box, took the puck down the right wing, and basically dared P.K. Subban or Rinne to stop him as he drove to the net.
Early in the second period, the Isles took a 4-2 lead when Nick Leddy’s volley from the point appeared to take a few deflections, although maybe it was clean because Rinne was just having that kind of night.
#Isles have now allowed 30 shots on goal in 20 straight games.— Brian Compton (@BComptonNHL) February 6, 2018
With the Islanders up 4-2, the Predators put on a push to really control most of the second half of the second period. But the Isles used a power play to create some glorious, chaotic opportunities to make it a three-goal lead yet ultimately fell short.
That hurt, and quite soon afterward. The Predators pulled it back to 4-3 with 3:35 left. Calle Jarnkrok batted the puck in with Scott Hartnell occupying real estate in the crease, and falling on Halak’s right leg, but not forcefully enough or soon enough for the referees to overturn the on-ice ruling after Doug Weight’s coach’s challenge.
The league’s streak of scorer-friendly rulings on goalie interference reviews continues after the sudden revised “don’t go looking for something” interpretation handed down at the All-Star break.
The Isles were outshot 19-9 for the second period, making it 37-20 overall at that point.
If Halak was in a better union he’d be getting time and a half lately.— Rookie Example (@KeithLHHockey) February 6, 2018
But in a turn, Halak would only face 10 more shots for the rest of the game, almost all of them at 6-on-5 or 3-on-3.
Third Period: They can still do this?
The Islanders in the third period looked like a team that knows what its doing. That may be faint praise, but it was refreshing to see given it’s been a too-seldom occurrence over the past two months.
IT was tough luck more than anything else that they didn’t get out of the epriod with a regulation win.
This is as things got more physical and tighter in the third period, with the refs who were so particular in the first period now looking the other way. MSG showed a great replay of Anders Lee receiving a hack on the hands as he went to the net for a shot, then receiving a five-star crosscheck to the back from Pontus “Pilate” Aberg for good measure.
Barzal was stopped on a rare clearcut breakaway when he tried to tuck forehand while Rinne probably left more space to the backhand. But Lee and Barzal’s opportunities revealed a welcome change: The Isles weren’t bleeding shots, and in fact shots for the period were 5-1 in their favor with seven minutes to go.
The Barzal-Jordan Eberle-Lee combo continued to create some of the best chances, and draw the most egregious uncalled offenses. Alas, no penalties called in the third period by the Jekyll and Hyde officiating crew.
The Preds had an offensive zone faceoff with two minutes to go and pulled Rinne for a sixth attacker. They wore the Isles defense down for a good minute, who kept shots mostly outside but with nary a good chance to clear, and finally broke through when Ryan Johansen scored on a rebound with 47 seconds to go in regulation.
#Isles third period tonight was their best in weeks. Still, their only breakdown at 5 on 6 ends up in the net. The goals against just keep on coming this year.— Arthur Staple (@StapeAthletic) February 6, 2018
Tavares opened overtime by ringing a shot off the crossbar. He and Josh Bailey had another two-on-one but Bailey lacked a good shooting angle and passed back to Tavares too low.
A trio of Eberle, Barzal and Thomas Hickey had their way with the Preds for a shift, but Rinne robbed Barzal with a stretching glove save after a great one-two-three.
Then it was Halak’s turn to shine as he stopped two consecutive breakaways, first stopping Viktor Arvidsson and then Craig Smith.
Roman Josi finally won it for the visitors, being left alone by Andrew Ladd to convert a give-and-go on a two-on-two.
Weight With Words
“They have to look at themselves. They had, what, 36 shots through two periods and how many from the blueline hit Jaro right in the chest? That means we are not getting in the shot lanes. When we take those shots they’re blocked. We can talk about being aggressive and preventing shots but we’re not doing it, we’re being soft on D.”
>>Weight in the post-game with media
Weight also addressed the Johnny Boychuk injury prognosis a bit, calling it a unique situation where the blueliner is having trouble progressing. So: He’s been skating, but doesn’t sound as close as he did a couple days ago.
In other words: If Mayfield is out, we’re gonna see some Seidenberg.
The Islanders are in Buffalo Thursday night. If they get both points like they should there, tonight’s missed opportunity may feel more like a bonus point.