Keith Quinn, Islanders Point Blank:
As this season comes to it’s merciful end, at least we can say that the Isles went down swinging (literally and figuratively). Some may frame it as ‘pressure free hockey’ and ‘too little too late’ or ‘same old story’, but this recent stretch is how you’d like to see your team playing throughout the year. As always, if this can keep up and the lineup regulars come back in good form, this team is a goaltending upgrade away from the playoffs.
It’s a lot of ifs.
But today, there was a game. With this many 4th liners on the ice, there was bound to be some fisticuffs. And feel-good story Justin Johnson was able to score a knockout on one of the biggest and toughest in the NHL, John Scott.
Buffalo grabbed the lead in a mostly uneventful first period right at the expiration of a Johnson interference penalty. Jamie McBain took the puck from his own circles, and eventually, around Scott Mayfield and fired a low snap shot past Anders Nilsson. Buffalo outshot the Isles 11-6 in the period.
The Sabres controlled the first half of the second while the Isles came back a bit in the second half. The period got going with another fight, this time between former fan favorite Zenon Konopka and current fan favorite Brett Gallant. It was a very safely fought bout by Konopka.
At the 7:23 mark, Matt Ellis was able to fend off John Persson and Matt Donovan and tip a Marcus Foligno saucer pass by Nilsson to extend the Sabres’ lead to 2-0. Buffalo began to control play even more and by the midway point in the period were outshooting the Isles 18-9.
Matt Carkner drew a roughing penalty at 15:15 and Anders Lee got one back on the ensuing power play. He muscled his way through two Buffalo defenders to bat home a Frans Nielsen pass from behind the net that bounced up and fell in the crease. The period closed with the shots closer with the Sabres leading 21-15.
Anders Lee struck again to tie things up just :17 into the third. He took a Josh Bailey chip pass and fired an opposite post backhand past Connor Knapp.
A few minutes later, Scott Mayfield had his first NHL fight with Nicolas Deslauriers (after earlier penalties for matching roughings). It did not go as well as the previous two NHL fighting debuts by Gallant and Johnson.
The Sabres were beginning to control play again for long stretches and were able to retake the lead when Torrey Mitchell tipped in a Rasmus Ristolainen point shot after the Isles were hemmed in their zone for a while.
Brock Nelson pulled the Isles even again at the 16:16 mark of the period. He jumped to knock down an tipped Travis Hamonic pass at center, skated to the top of the circles, toe dragged and fired an over the shoulder wrister through a screen. Pure snipe.
The third ended in a tie, and the overtime was tons of open action but only one shot making it through for the Isles to Buffalo’s four.
Your shootout results
Tyler Ennis shootout miss
Nielsen five hole wrist shot saved
Hodgson five hole wrist shot saved
Nelson five hole wrist shot trickled through.
- Anders Lee finished with six shots and 17:32 TOI. It is fantastic to see these young guys able to hand high ice time minutes and may mean big things for sprinkling them throughout the top six ncxt season.
- Anders Nilsson played a solid game and faced a ton of shots. (36 saves on 39 shots) Who knows what the future has in store for the goaltending. I can’t say I expect Poulin and Nilsson back or if they deserve to be back. They are young, but the position needs immediate fixing. The Isles can’t afford to be patient.
- According to the Isles twitter account, Bailey (30) and Nielsen (33) extended their career highs in assists. Many fans are frustrated by Bailey, but that is a respectable number and if he is defensively responsible and a 40 point guy, that’s pretty good. Maybe not three million good, but pretty good. The trick is to get that dispersed throughout the season and not in March/April.
A special thanks to all the readers that make IPB go, and to Kevin and Christian for a great blogging season. Stay tuned for more coverage and content throughout the offseason.