John Tavares is opening eyes, breaking hearts and mangling water bottles.
The Isles improved their abysmal home record to 2-5 getting exceptional performances out of Tavares (3g 1a) , Matt Moulson (1g 3a), Evgeni Nabokov (30 saves), and the 4th line (too many INTANGIBLES!!) in what was their most complete 60 minutes of the season. They made the Devils pay for just about every penalty they took to going 3/5 on the PP for the night and they continued to push play in the third instead of trying to be safe.
So now we are looking at winning two in a row against two high-powered division rivals after a five game losing streak. What gives with this team?
Both teams had a lot of jump and the goaltending of Johan Hedberg (9 saves) and Evgeni Nabokov (15 saves) was the story. Nabokov may have played his best period of the season and looks to be rounding into form after a less than stellar start.
Each team had some quality scoring chances and each hit a post. The Isles’ David Ullstrom was granted a penalty shot for being taken down on a breakaway. He had Hedberg almost beaten on the backhand of judgement move, but he got a little glove on the puck, and it rang the crossbar. The penalty shot was possibly questionable because minimal contact was made (especially prior to the puck being swept away and Ullstrom tripping over a Devil). In the first couple of minutes of the game, Hedberg robbed Brad Boyes from in tight after a cross ice feed from Matt Moulson.
The Isles controlled most of the play in the second outshooting the Devils 14-5 and finally striking pay dirt at 16:46 and scoring three times in a three minute span. The first goal was John Taveares 9th of the season, extending his goal scoring streak to five games. Brad Boyes took a wrist shot that Hedberg kicked back out to his right and right to Tavares who banged it home.
The second goal was on the power play, drawn when Matt Martin laid a heavy hit on Bryce Salvador in the Devils corner. Salvador took exception and laid several slashes and cross-checks on Martin who wisely didn’t retaliate. On the ensuing PP, Tavares and Moulson worked a pretty give and go (ish) play. Moulson walked out from behind the goal line and sent a shot toward Hedberg and he gave a big rebound that Tavares batted out of the air.
The third goal was another on the power play after Henrik Tallinder pulled Kyle Okposo down as he passed the Devils net. Matt Moulson was set up in the dirty area and Brad Boyes found him for a bang-bang goal.
The Devils were frustrated, and behind the play toward the end of the period, David Clarkson was trying to goad Colin McDonald into a fight. Mc Donald remained disciplined and the Isles went into the third perhaps playing one of their most complete 40 minutes of the season.
Three point periods from Moulson and Tavares and the Islanders had 3 of the most dangerous leads in hockey; the 3-0 lead, an Islander lead, and an Islander third period lead. (The broadcast noted the Isles have been outscored by 9 in third periods this season in 13 games.)
The Devils would break Nabokov’s shutout bid at 8:47 on a PP goal from a Marek Zidlicky slapshot from the mid-circle that went off the goaltender’s arm. If you’re like me, you thought the wheels were coming off. The Isles had been outshot and outplayed up until that point, but this time, they were able to buckle down and regain the momentum. They kept working and were able to draw a couple of penalties keeping the Devils from making their comeback.
Tavares’ hat trick goal was a snipe of beauty. After receiving a feed from Mark Streit, he blew a wrist shot over Hedberg’s left shoulder into the top inch of the net sending the water bottle for a ride. After that, Krys Barch
engaged in some shenanigans tried to spark his team by trying to fight Matt Martin who would have none of it and put the Isles on another power play.
The Isles rounded out the scoring a few minutes later with a broken play that last went off of Michael Grabner.
- Being forced to watch the Devils feed during an Isles home game is ridiculous. It’s possibly understandable if it was a sport that has local interest, but to be bumped in New York for a Houston vs Tulsa regular season college basketball game is a slap in the face of Isles fans. It’s bad enough that at times this team doesn’t get pre or post game shows, doesn’t have a representative on Hockey Night Live and is sometimes located on channels that are impossible to find, but enough is enough. Bad job MSG. As of the time of this writing, MSG has not responded to a request for comment from Kevin Schultz
- The fourth line has been outstanding in the last two games. 12 hits, 15/19 on faceoffs for Cizikas, drawing penalties, being a nuisance, winning puck battles, tenderizing the Devils defense and just generally keeping people off their game. They’ve been so good, they’re getting , more TOI than the third line…or perhaps they are the third line? Who knows?
- Unfortuntely, that means that Michael Grabner has been getting less time…which I’m not sure is a great idea. There are probably better candidates for a TOI reduction than a guy who tends to dominate possession and can get his own chances pretty often.
- It looks like JT91 is 4th in NHL scoring and as a surprise, Matt Moulson is 8th and is over a point per game with 17 points in 13 games. Pretty refreshing.
- Lubomir Visnovsky continues to impress. What a talent back there. Also a point per game since getting here.
- The streaky power play is back in “on mode”. Absolutely lethal the last couple of games, but the Isles mixed in a couple of even strength goals. Still, they need to be better at 5 on 5 scoring. Getting power plays is not a reliable strategy.
- And just like that, they’re only one game under NHL .500 and two points out of 8th.