Keith Quinn, Islanders Point Blank:
The Islanders got back to winning again beating the ’2nd in the conference’ Tampa Bay Lightning in a tightly contested defensive struggle. This is only the second time this season they’ve won a game when scoring less than three goals, but hey, it’s the second time in the last four games, so things are looking up!
They came out a bit flat and fell behind early again when the Lightning scored on a power play off a Brian Strait over the glass penalty. The Lightning forwards used a lot of cross-ice passes which had Kevin Poulin going down and eventually over-commiting and unable to recover. Martin St. Louis was left with an empty net to bury his 21st of the season off the pass from Valtteri Filppula. The defense could’ve done more to prevent the amount of passing Tampa Bay engaged in too. Tampa just manhandled that first kill.
The Isles weren’t able to answer on two power plays of their own in the period. They got a scare when Brock Nelson was caught in the head on a strange but legal hit from Filppula. He must’ve passed protocols because he did return to the bench, but as always with any potential concussions, time will tell.
It was a mostly uneventful period offensively, but recently activated defenseman Radek Martinek created some adventure on the defensive side. He appeared rusty and slow to pick up assignments. At one point getting too deep while taking a shot and chasing the play all the way back to the defensive zone. Luckily, the shot was telegraphed for the crest and Poulin came up with the save.
The second was a close checking affair at even strength, but the penalty brigade continued for both sides.
Thomas Vanek had a good chance for the equalizer off a give and go with Kyle Okposo (with Tavares as net front presence), but the puck rolled on him a bit and the shot was of poor velocity. Bishop, with his size made most shots look less than dangerous.
Casey Cizikas got a hard working breakaway after he stripped the puck from a Lightning player. He was hounded by Victor Hedman and again, Bishop eclipsed the net, however, Cal Clutterbuck was trailing and was pulled down by Teddy Purcell negating the Andrew MacDonald tripping penalty.
The fourth line was gave the Isles their best sustained offensive chance with Martin being stopped on Bishop’s left side, and the puck coming across the crease where Cizikas had some open area to shoot at. That was blocked by the slimmest of margins though and cleared. On the Isles next trip in, Colin McDonald chipped some paint off the crossbar, and it looked like the Isles were not going to get the bounces on the evening.
But late in the period, Hedman took a high-sticking penalty against Brian Strait. Off the ensuing faceoff, Tavares won it to Vanek, who swat-chipped it to Nielsen. Nielsen crossed it back to the right and Vanek put it past a diving Bishop and the Isles were able to carry the 1-1 tie into intermission.
The Lightning took over the third possession wise outshooting the Isles 8-3 for the period and dictating the play. Hedman was particularly active and on one shift, he walked through the slot twice. One time getting a weak shot off that Poulin coralled, the other, he rang the far post on the backhand.
Tavares and Vanek had a golden chance of their own when Vanek dished a rink-wide pass across the crease that Tavares also hit the post with. At the end of a long shift, Tavares and Vanek had an odd man rush, but were caught and disrupted beautifully by Richard Panik
In the overtime, both teams lookes a bit conservative and shots were 4-2 for the Isles. Brock Nelson had a particularly strong showing outmuschling a couple of Lightning defenders (Hedman included) and retrieving pucks and setting up scoring chances. Tavares had a strong shift with Frans Nielsen late as well, but the Lightning did well to get their sticks active and disrupt play.
In the shootout, the automatic Dane did what he does, this time with his backup move, the five-hole wrist shot to get the Isles the extra point in the skills show.
Filppula wrist shot-post
Nielsen-wrist shot, five hole-good.
Kucherov-wrist shot- five hole-saved
Vanek- wrist shot- five hole-saved
Hedman- wrist shot saved
- Poulin has won 7 of his last 9 after going through a six game losing streak. Matt Saidman indicated that he is 3-0 in shootouts and has saved 10/11 shootout attempts against this season. As of this writing, he still has a .898 sv%, but he is on the upswing.
- Radek Martinek didn’t look too good in his return to action. He seemed to miss a few reads early on and his shot selection led to a couple of blocks and clears. Let’s hope he can get that under control if Travis Hamonic is going to continue to miss time. The Isles are running out of defensive options.
- Hedman’s a beast huh? He has 10 goals on the season too. And he seems to have a bit of a mean streak. Let’s hope that’s how Reinhart looks in a couple of years.
- Ben Bishop is gigantic. And very good too. He’s really elevating that team. They’ll be pretty tough if Stamkos can get back into the swing of things quickly.
- There are a bunch of divisional games coming up. Two against the Flyers, one each against the Rangers and Penguins and really, the rest of the month is tough. There may be some more Boulton and Carkner sprinkled into the lineup.