UNIONDALE — Moments into the second period, John Tavares took a puck to the face when a Red Wing lifted the puck into the zone, attempting a dump in. He would hunch over and head to the locker room, causing the usual panic from fans in the stand and on Twitter. As if nothing had happened, he returned to the ice with only minor cuts on his right cheek a few minutes later and got back to work. He would deliver quick retribution on the scoreboard, scoring his 14th of the year at the 7:31 mark of the period. Four minutes later, he set up line mate Kyle Okposo with a perfect pass on a 2-on-1 and the rout of the Red Wings was on.
The Islanders beat the Red Wings 5-1 at the Coliseum tonight in a game that at times seemed like it should have been closer but the home team cashed in their chances against goalie Ty Conklin.
The Red Wings almost jumped out to a first period lead when Cory Emmerton rung a shot off the left post that skittered out behind Evgeni Nabokov to the opposite side. Emmerton’s line mate sent the rebound toward a wide-open net and missed completely. Disaster averted for the Islanders.
Late in the period Brad Stuart would take a penalty for roughing. He added two minutes of it by slamming his stick on the boards on the way to the box. Matt Moulson put the Islanders on the board on the ensuing power play when his pass kicked off a defender in front and past Ty Conklin.
After Tavares helped light the lamp twice in the second, Michael Grabner would – finally – score on a breakaway chance late in the period. For @grabs40, it broke an eight-game scoreless streak that has seen him demoted to the third line.
The line of Grabner, Josh Bailey and Matt Martin was excellent throughout the game tonight, recording eight shots. Bailey saw extensive time on the team’s power play clocking in at 2:19 of man advantage ice time.
The teams traded goals in the third, with Moulson adding another. For Moulson that was his 20th of the season, putting him on pace for a shade over 40 goals at the half-way mark.
At the end of the period with the game out of reach at 5-1, coach Jack Capuano kept his top line of Moulson, Tavares and Okposo out for the entire final minute. Curiously, the coach called a time out during a stoppage with about 22 seconds remaining, which seemed to anger Wings’ coach Mike Babcock on the opposing bench – sportsmanship probably being the main bullet point of the presentation. Capuano opted to keep his top line out in a blowout win where the opposition had not even pulled their netminder, which would have allowed Moulson an easier attempt at a hat trick.
“Our top guys were tired,” Capuano said after the game. “You know what I don’t care if their coach – with no disrespect to their team or their coach – but bottom line is Kyle, Mouls and Johnny played a real good game tonight, were tired and had iced the puck.”
With the icing, Capuano wasn’t able to change lines and get his players off the ice.
“When you’re fatigued, injuries take place… I’d do it again if I had the chance.”
Babcock’s anger is understandable but a bit misplaced – his concern should be about how his team airmailed it against the 14th best team in the Eastern Conference. Maybe it’s a focal point to deflect attention from the effort.
For Capuano, it’s a questionable move that’s not going to earn him many points outside of his own locker room.
The Islanders improved to 5-0-1 in their last six against the Red Wings, outscoring their opposition 19-9 in those games. They are also 15-1-7 in their last 23 home games against Western Conference opponents.
TAVARES THE WARRIOR
Soon after the puck dropped in the second period, John Tavares took a puck to the face as one of the Wings flipped the puck up attempting to dump it into the Isles’ zone. It appeared to catch Tavares in the mouth, who headed off the ice immediately. He returned at the next stoppage with a vengeance scoring a goal and an assist in the following 10 minutes.
The Islanders continue their four-game homestand on Thursday night against the Flyers. The biggest story of their week is that Claude Giroux tried to blow up Twitter a few days ago, simply by joining. The Islanders have beaten the Flyers once in their last 18 meetings, dating back to 2007.