Keith Quinn, Islanders Point Blank:
With Thomas Vanek sitting the game out with a rumored trade in the works the young Islanders battled hard despite being largely outshot, and rallied for their first victory in the post Andrew MacDonald era. They were able to get the penalty kill under control, killing five and looking dangerous at times in the process.
From puck drop it looked like the Jets’ idea was to bring the physical to the understaffed Isles. Hit totals were close in the first (19-16 Jets), but there were Islanders strewn about the rink pretty often. To their credit though, they kept coming. Thomas Hickey got steamrolled early by Dustin (I’m copy/pasting his last name) Byfuglien and that was answered a couple of shifts later with Matt Martin laying a bomb on Jacob Trouba leading to a scrap between Martin and Chris Thorburn. Both Martin and Thorburn needed some tending to in the dressing room, but returned.
The Jets got the scoring started of a poorly played faceoff in the Isles defensive zone. Off the draw, the puck sat in the circle for a second and Andrew Ladd got to it before Travis Hamonic. He put it past Anders Nilsson.
A few minutes later, with the hitting still at a fever pitch, Eric Boulton and Mark Stuart engaged in a little rasslin. Stuart was the big hitter for Winnipeg in the first with 7. Boulton was given an extra minor for roughing and the PK got its first work on the night. It looked much improved with Michael Grabner getting a couple of scoring chances.
The Isles tied the game at 17:30 when Ryan Strome rifled a shot off the end boards that ricocheted out to Colin McDonald for the put back. Strome took a late penalty leaving the Jets with 1:30 of power play time carrying into the second.
The Jets took control of the possession play in the second outshooting the Isles 17-7, but the Isles had the only goal to show for it. Anders Lee broke the tie at 1:33 at the expiration of the Strome penalty. Grabner sprung Lee for a breakaway and he whipped a wrist shot that bounced up and over Pavelec. Lee tipped it in. The play was reviewed because it appeared the puck appeared to be hit with a high stick.
The Isles lost Boulton for at least the remainder of the game with a hand injury..which is a nice departure from “upper body”.
The real story of the period was Nilsson though. Despite seeing three power plays and an excess of rubber, he stood tall and turned away a slew of scoring chances. The most threatening of which came on a shot that sneaked through Nilsson, bounced off the post, and off his back and settled in the blue paint. Nilsson fell on it for a play stoppage.
The third saw more of the same with Winnipeg getting the better of the possession. But the Isles did manage to coax their first power play of the game out of the officials when Tobias Enstrom held Clutterbuck’s stick too blatantly to be ignored. The Isles depleted power play had a couple of good puck moving moments, but will probably need some work now without three regulars on it.
Travis Hamonic was particularly active throughout this game and had a great chance ricochet off the crossbar. The shot was made possible via tenacious Cizikas forecheck and centering feed from behind the net. Later in the period, Ryan Strome made a beautiful angled block of a Jets shot when Nilsson was not able to get across the crease on a cross ice pass.
But, as is true to Islanders third period form, they conceded a third period lead. During a four on four (Hamonic and Little in the box for matching roughing minors), the Isles had a particularly strange offensive alignment in the Jets zone. Both deHaan and Strait were below the middle of the faceoff circles when Josh Bailey turned the puck over at the top of the right circle. Grabner was about even with Bailey, but toward center ice. That led to a clear and easy breakaway for Andrew Ladd to wrist home his second of the game at 14:53 and they would carry that score into overtime.
The overtime was a wide-open end to end affair with what felt like more scoring chances than shots (which were officially 2-1 Islanders). The risky play came to an end with Cal Clutterbuck outworking a Jets player along the boards and springing Grabner (who was outstanding all night) for a breakaway. He blew past two defenders and put a wrister past Pavelec.
Let the new era begin.
- The Isles had five defensemen with over 23 minutes of ice time (Hamonic, deHaan, Visnovsky and Hickey). Carkner pulled 10:21. If they aren’t going to call up Matt Donovan, I’d expect that pattern to continue.
- Martin and Boulton combined only played a little over 10 minutes. Boulton left the game with an injury and Martin left for a short time in the first, so perhaps he was banged up too. The Isles do not have an extra forward on this trip (except for Vanek), so someone may have to take a long flight to Edmonton. Or maybe Carkner sees forward time and Martinek gets in.
- The Isles are just better on the road. That is annoying to people who buy tickets here.
- In case you missed the lady who flipped off the Isles coaching staff, here it is. Coaches trolling hard.
- Anders Nilsson looked far more composed tonight. Seeing all of the goalies that got traded and/or signed today, it would be nice if one of the Isles started trending toward league average.
- Have a happy trade deadline day Isles fans. May your projected returns come true. And at least consider this; at least this season, the Isles have some assets that they can actually move and get decent returns on. It’s not a great thing, but better than in years passed.