The New York Islanders, who have been very good on the second half of back-to-backs under Barry Trotz, went into Montreal with high hopes of another sweep.
But they either didn’t heed Trotz’s warning that the winless-in-eight Canadiens were dangerous, or they just didn’t have it as the road-worn team against a hungry and capable opponent that started the night honoring all of the captains they have traded away. The Islanders were consistently outplayed, other than a late push in the third period that made things interesting.
Somehow, despite trailing 3-0 early in the third period and looking like little threat to change things, the Islanders had two minutes with a sixth attacker and the score at 3-2 late in the third. They even generated a few chances — Ryan Pulock and Mathew Barzal really stirring the drink — to tie it and steal a point or two. But an empty net goal ended that greedy dream.
Final score: 4-2 loss and a split road trip.
This is not to say this game was subject to traditional coinflip situations on which any evenly played game can turn. Rather, it was a game that remained close on the scoreboard and thus at any point over the first 40+ minutes the Islanders might have been able to steal something.
- Cal Clutterbuck left the game early in the first and did not return after taking a crosscheck to the face. No penalty called.
- The second period was no better than the first period, but the Islanders reached the halfway point still only trailing 1-0. Then Thomas Greiss dropped a point shot that he tried to catch, as Brendan Gallagher tipped it with a near-high stick and was right there to double-swat at the rebound while Greiss tried to locate the line drive. 2-0 for the Canadiens at 13:30.
- Still trailing 2-0 yet, as is their relentless habit, retaining a chance to get right back in the game, the Islanders had two power plays late in the second period. The first one produced shots but nothing convincing. The second one featured a nifty deflection by Anders Lee that Carey Price made a great save on to preserve Montreal’s two-goal lead.
- The second power play was drawn by Brock Nelson after Price leveled him with a crosscheck, a move that somehow only received a warning from referee Dan O’Halloran, so Price ignored his mulligan and slashed Nelson, too. (It’s always amusing when fans — and Mike Johnson on TSN — complain that the slash was a “soft” one where Nelson shouldn’t have fallen, thus somehow concluding that both 1) that means it shouldn’t be called at all, and 2) the refs were somehow right to ignore the previous crosscheck that they clearly saw.)
- That second power play bridged into the third period, but the Isles couldn’t generate any good looks with the fresh ice.
- Okay, it’s probably over now: Early in the third period, Greiss sees nothing of a Jeff Petry shot that makes it 3-0. The Islanders got a goal right back on the next shift, via some patented Jordan Eberle moves into the slot that created a juicy rebound for Scott Mayfield to make it 3-1. You know the feeling, though: Man, if not for that last shift, it’d be a one-goal game right now!
- So you’re saying there’s a chance. But wait! Mathew Barzal made it 3-2 with 2:29 left to play when he deflected a Nick Leddy point shot. And the Islanders handled the ensuing 6-on-5 really well, and came thiiiiis close to tying it up with a couple of great chances down low.
But they didn’t tie it. The Habs got a breather after an icing, and Shea Weber notched the empty net insurance on a shot from his own goal line.
Ah well, the team didn’t deserve points from this. And tonight, unlike several other thus far this season, they weren’t able to steal any.
Yes, Totally Legal Moment of the Game
Jesperi Kotkaniemi throws around Mathew Barzal.— Here's Your Replay ⬇️ (@HeresYourReplay) December 4, 2019
Barry Trotz Quote (and everyone else, for this one)
“We didn’t deserve to win this hockey game.”
This completes a three-in-four stretch for the Islanders, but does not end a busy stretch of the schedule. They’re back home against Vegas on Thursday night, then travel to Dallas for a game Saturday and Tampa Bay for a game Monday.
Not a schedule that makes much sense, but Metro teams can’t ever really complain about travel and scheduling, relative to the lot the rest of the league is dealt.