Keith Quinn, Islanders Point Blank:
He’s Ninofer one against his former team, but it didn’t look like it was going to be that way early on for Niederreiter and the rest of the Minnesota Wild.
The Isles came in on on the tail end of a back to back sequence with a couple of regulars (Josh Bailey and Michael Grabner) out with injury and illness respctively and promptly got skated out of the building in the first period. They were outshot 16-8 and outscored 1-0…but it really wasn’t even that close.
Ryan Suter got the Wild on the board first when Casey Cizikas was hurt on an accidental collision with Keith Ballard at center leaving Eric Boulton to cover the defensive zone. A couple of poor angles and failed clears later, Mike Rupp’s rebound landed in front of Suter for the goal.
Things didn’t look much better in the start of the second with the Wild scoring twice in the first 2:39 of the period with Nino assisting on one, and scoring the other. Islanders fans were starting to have a meltdown.
But Kyle Okposo began to assert himself in this game and put the Isles on his back. John Tavares got the Isles within two at the 8:45 mark when he was able to materialize from out of nowhere to put home a Vanek shot that was laying in the crease and was about to be swept out of harms way by the Wild. The play was made possible by a bullish zone entry by Okposo followed by some boards work and some slick passing. It was only the beginning for the olympic hopeful though.
With 1:02 left in the second, the Islanders struck again to cut the lead to one. This time, it was the line of Strome, Nelson and Clutterbuck with Hickey and Hamonic finishing off a power play and maintaining possession in the Wild zone for 90 seconds on the forecheck. Clutterbuck was able to tip home a Hickey wrister from the point leading Jiggs McDonald to quip “The trade is tied 1-1” at the end of the period.
The Isles got a beautiful goal from Hickey on a high-speed tip in of a Colin McDonald centering feed to tie the game at three at the 6:30 mark of the third and took the lead for the first time at the 12:13 mark on an Okposo laser-shot from the right wing boards.
True to form and with nothing coming easy, the Isles allowed the Wild to claw back into things a minute and a half later off a bad clearing attempt and some poor rebound control by Poulin. Matt Cooke fired a shot off the keeper and Marco Scandella was there to lift the rebound over the sprawling netminder.
But this time, the Isles answered quickly themselves and it was Okposo again who delivered. He and Vanek combined for a heavy forecheck and won the battle. Vanek got the puck to the net and Okposo found some space between three Wild defenders to put the rebound away.
The Isles had a dramatic penalty kill at the end with players diving and sprawling to protect their lead with Tavares drawing a power play to close out most of the last two minutes.
- The penalty kill was 4/4 on the night and the Isles killers were sacrificing like crazy to block shots and stay in passing lanes. Brock Nelson saw time on the kill in Grabner’s absence as did Peter Regin and neither looked out of place to pretty good on the night.
- Thomas Hickey was +4 on the night and “activated” a lot. He should do that more often.
- Arthur Staple and Eric Hornick combined for some terrible statistics. Staple saying the Isles have trailed by three or more goals in last 9/16 road games. Hornick said that this is the 6th time the Isles have trailed 3-0 this season. It really didn’t sound hopeful for a while.
- After years of crediting Clutterbuck with an insane amount of hits (that many Western Conference teams complained about), the Wild official scorer credited him with one tonight.
- Ryan Suter played 33:14 tonight. That guy is an animal. He also played the full eight minutes of the Wild power plays, so he takes two minute shifts sometimes.
- The Isles got killed in the faceoff circle again 41-21.
- After Capuano saying that the young guys didn’t look so good last night, man did they look good tonight.
- Okposo has 37 points and is tied with Phil Kessel for second among American skaters (well behind Patrick Kane, but it’s Kane, so…).