Kevin Schultz, Islanders Point Blank:
Tavares’ goal, viewable above, came in the third round of the shootout and allowed the Islanders to walk off the ice with two points, their first home victory since February 16th. The win breaks an 0-3-1 home skid and ups their record to a still disappointing 3-8-1 on home ice.
The Islanders came out of the gates skating well in the first period, taking advantage of a Senators team that was clearly tired after playing Saturday against Philadelphia. Brad Boyes gave the Isles a 1-0 lead near the halfway point of the first, scoring off a great feed from Matt Moulson. The pair broke in on a 3-on-2 after all the Senators’ forwards were caught deep in the Isles’ zone. Boyes took the pass from Moulson and fired a wrister high past Sens goalie Robin Lehner.
The game turned considerably in the second, as the Sens seemed to get their feet under them a bit and the Islanders weren’t able to find a second goal despite 12 shots in the frame. The Senators would tie it at two when tough guy Chris Neil attempted to center the puck. Neil’s pass was errant and it ended up on Travis Hamonic’s stick, who reached and knocked it to Ottawa’s Mike Zibanejad. Zibanejad would make no mistake and tie it at two.
Earlier in the game, Neil had tried to goad Matt Martin into a fight. Martin, who had 11 hits in the game, turned down the offer.
“He’s just doing his job,” Martin said following the game. “He doesn’t want to see his players being run, but that’s my job. I didn’t feel it was the time to fight.”
Martin didn’t take a penalty on the night, keeping his team from having to kill off extra penalties. But on the other side of things, the Islanders didn’t take advantage of their man advantage opportunities. The team was 0-for-5 on the powerplay, and the second unit of Kyle Okposo, Frans Nielsen and Josh Bailey looked especially bad. That same unit, the Isles’ second line, had excellent offensive zone possessions five-on-five, but weren’t able to translate that to the man advantage. In a close game, a goal from the second line would have been valuable.
Tied at one on their home ice, the Islanders came out flat again to start the third period. They managed only one shot on goal in the first 11 minutes and didn’t seem to have a lot of energy until late when the Senators gift wrapped a scoring chance for Michael Grabner. After a tie up along the boards, the puck squirted out into the open off Kaspars Daugavins to a streaking Grabner, who had just come off the bench. Grabner made no mistake and notched his eighth of the year, bringing a Coliseum crowd that had been quiet for most of the period to its feet.
The Senators would add a goal late in the third period to tie up the game. After a tripping penalty to Kyle Okposo, Peter Wiercioch tipped in a goal with about a minute left sending the game to overtime.
In the shootout it would be all Islanders, as Evgeni Nabokov made two stops and Frans Nielsen and John Tavares provided the goals. Nielsen opted yet again to not go with a backhand and scored on Lehner to improve his league leading shootout record. After a Brad Boyes miss, John Tavares did what John Tavares does and won the game in brilliant fashion.
“We score a little bit of a lucky bounce goal but we still find a way to win,” goaltender Evgeni Nabokov said after the game, speaking about the Isles’ second goal. “Nothing is going to get easier. Unfortunately or fortunately but things aren’t going to get easier, things are going to get harder. It’s going to get closer to the playoffs and it’s only going to get harder.”
The Islanders have three more games at home this week, the first of which will be the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday night. After that they’ll take on the Rangers and Capitals to finish up a seven-game homestand. The Isles are currently 1-2-1 on the homestand, earning three of a possible eight points.