The New York Islanders had the perfect opponent to end their mini regulation loss slump, but things were far too difficult against the 31st-place Ottawa Senators before the Isles pulled out a 5-4 (2-0) shootout win at Nassau Coliseum.
A wild second period saw an exchange of five goals from both teams and myriad opportunities for the home team, and that left things a little too close heading into the third period, allowing the Senators to force overtime.
First Period: Roll call
With injuries and illness making the lineup TBD, the Isles had called up Michael Dal Colle and Josh Ho-Sang under emergency conditions. Only Dal Colle was needed, with Matt Martin, Cal Clutterbuck and Tom Kuhnhackl all ruled out.
The Islanders did not outshoot the Senators in the first period but did have a good share of play and dangerous chances. Brock Nelson opened scoring at the end of one of those, with him feeding Josh Bailey at the right-wing faceoff circle, then backhanding home the rebound of Bailey’s one-timer.
That top line with Anders Lee was nice and active, as was Mathew Barzal’s line. Thanks to injuries and illness maladies, the fourth line was constructed of recent bug victim Casey Cizikas in between Leo Komarov and Ross Johnston, hardly a scoring trio that. (Foreshadowing...)
But the Isles only put one past Craig Anderson in the first, so it was 1-0 at the first intermission. Toward the end of the period, Anthony Beauvillier had a complaint Mark Borowiecki (hear that pronunciation here), who’d gotten under the skin of a few Islanders, thanks to this uncalled hit:
The two had a non-violent conversation at the final horn, though it appeared Mathew Barzal was headed off for a high stick at the buzzer...
Second Period: So many chances
...However, due to extensive officiating discussion that may or may not have been influenced by player pleas or a peak at the video scoreboard, the second period opened with the officials explaining that the penalty was wiped off, because it wasn’t Barzal’s stick at all. (It was Senator-on-Senator crime.)
The Islanders promptly looked that gift horse (okay, karma correction horse) in the mouth by conceding an equalizer just 26 seconds into the period. It was a deflection by Brian Gibbons, too fast and redirecting for Robin Lehner to pick up, off Thomas Chabot’s point shot for his 35th assist of the season.
Still, the Islanders were about to pour it on and get rewarded.
First Dal Colle, continuing his reinvention as Disciplined Defensive Miser, intercepted a pass at the point in the Islanders zone and led a two-on-one with Devon Toews, in his typical hyperspeed. Dal Colle was patient to make sure his pass got through, but it was a lofted one Toews had to catch with his glove low to settle.
He did that, and shot, basically in one motion, a wonderfully skillful conversion to make it 2-1.
That came just two minutes after the equalizer, and three minutes later Anders Lee deflected a point shot to extend the lead to 3-1.
The Isles were cruising. And yet. Just 47 seconds later, the Sens forced a turnover, got a helpful deflection to stop the point shot, leaving an easy tap in for Oscar Lindberg.
There were several real chances before and after the Islanders got the next goal, a perfectly Ross Johnston goal scored by, indeed, Ross Johnston. It was his first goal of the season, playing in just his 16th game of the season and fifth of 2019.
On the play, Cizikas forced a turnover with a good forecheck, Komarov put a shot on goal, and Johnston shoveled a one-hand backhand on the rebound. But Anderson, who was coming out too far, was well out of the crease as Johnston was budged toward the goal, and the puck went in off his body.
That was at the midpoint, and the Islanders had chance after chance to put the game away over the final 10 minutes of the period. Mathew Barzal, Komarov (okay, but still), Lee, power play one-timers, plus a bushel of cross-slot chances that either Anderson stopped or they never quite connected on.
All told, the Isles had outshot Ottawa 26-8 in the second period alone, but only led 4-2. That left things in a winning but still uncomfortable position heading into the third.
Third Period: Hooo boy...
Yeah, about that discomfort.
It was a much quieter period, but Bobby Ryan made it even more nerve-wracking on a deflection at 7:38 to make it 4-3.
The Islanders were trying to do their shut-it-down, low-event hockey, but still weren’t quite sharp, and had some sloppiness to their game. Ottawa had more good looks than they should have been granted by a team that really needed this.
With 4:40 left, the Senators tied it, or they didn’t, or they did: on a good mad scramble in the Isles zone, Brady Tkachuk drove the net with a rebound and did not apply the brakes. He had a bit of a push from behind by Brock Nelson, but Tkachuk was already well into plowing into Robin Lehner, who was shaken up on the play. Jean-Gabriel Pageau popped the resting rebound into the net...which was open...you know, because Tkachuk was on top of Lehner.
Lehner then left the game to be tended to by trainers.
In the meantime, with nothing to lose, the Senators challenged the call on the ice. (The officials had initially signaled goal, but after discussion ruled “no goal.”) Somehow, the Senators challenge was upheld, the refs’ call overturned.
So Thomas Greiss had to come in cold with 4:40 left, and officially made two saves. The Isles were angry, but did not execute well during the final stretch.
The Islanders had three power plays to the Senators’ zero but still finished regulation with just a 4-4 exchange of even strength goals. To be fair, the Isles worked the puck pretty well on each power play but couldn’t solve Anderson. Nonetheless, and even with the bad no-goal-yes-goal call, the Isles made things far more difficult for themselves than they needed to be.
Overtime was a dreary affair, with shot attempts but almost no saves, except for a great Greiss save on Chabot in the final minute.
In the shootout Jordan Eberle finished the first attempt, going below Anderson’s glove. The scary Chabot had Greiss beat with a Peter Forsberg move, but Greiss’ toe got enough of it to slow it down and keep it 1-0
Then Barzal came down to score in the same spot Eberle hit to give the Isles a 2-0 margin.
Greiss then kept Ryan wide to seal the game and the win. Two points, the hard way, and not in regulation, but huge nonetheless.
For the moment, the Isles have first place back on tiebreaker with the Capitals.
They’ll do it again Thursday in Ottawa. (I swear. It’s in Ottawa for real next time.)