Kevin Schultz, Islanders Point Blank:
This is the team you would like to see more often. Matt Martin is hitting, multiple lines are scoring, the power play is clicking and the team is, for the most part, defensively responsible.
The Islanders came out of the gates playing well, something that we haven’t seen often enough. They ended up down 1-0 after the first period but Matt Moulson hit a post, Colin McDonald had a clear chance on a 2-on-1 with Michael Grabner among a few of the opportunities they had.
The lone goal in the first period was a defensive breakdown where most involved didn’t know where the puck was. Radek Martinek and Thomas Hickey converged on Michael Ryder behind the net, something two Islander defenders shouldn’t have been doing. But the puck went across to a wide open Alex Galchenyuk — something the two defenders, Ryder, Nabokov, and MSG cameras didn’t realize until much later — and Galchenyuk fed Tomas Plekanec in front for his tenth of the season.
The Islanders would cash in during the second frame with three goals, one from each Matt Moulson, Matt Martin and Michael Grabner. Moulson scored on the power play and off a beautiful cross-offensive zone feed from Mark Streit. This, following John Tavares getting taken down, not drawing a penalty, and slamming the bench door so everyone in Western Nassau could hear his disgust. It was the first time Moulson had scored without Tavares on the ice since November 2011.
Matt Martin added the Isles second goal cutting hard to the front of the net, even banging his stick on the ice calling for the puck.
The third goal came from Grabner, grabbing deflected pass and quickly wristing it past Carey Price. For Grabner, he’s second on the team in even strength goals (two behind Tavares, three ahead of Moulson) and only 14th on the team in even strength time on ice. Why is still a complete mystery. Ice time or not, Grabner is on pace for 32 goals in an 82-game season.
The Habs would get one back before the end of the second and we had a 3-2 game heading into the third.
In the final frame, the Canadiens would tie it at 3-3 as Brian Gionta deflected home a powerplay goal, also the 20,000th goal in Montreal team history. Unlike in other games, the Islanders continued to play hard and fight despite relinquishing a two-goal lead. Two minutes after Gionta scored, Radek Martinek fired a puck past Carey Price that really turned the tide. John Tavares alertly stuffed in a loose puck, putting him in a tie for second in the NHL in goals. Colin McDonald would add the icing on the cake with an empty net goal later on, with Martin unselfishly feeding him for the easy score.
This the kind of game and effort the Islanders need more often if they want to stay in the Eastern Conference playoff race. Despite a rough February and bad start to this homestand, they still find themselves two points behind the Rangers for the eighth spot in the East. The Rangers visit the Coliseum this Thursday, having won three in a row.