10:20 pm, Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum: One breakdown was all it took, and now the Islanders have lost three straight games in regulation.
Struggling to keep up with the Canadiens for the first ten minutes of the game, the Islanders got their legs, turned it around and forced the majority of play for the next 40 minutes. But the Islanders’ failure to get back on defense led to a 3-on-2 for the Canadiens and a goal by Benoit Pouliot at 7:19 of the third period to break a 1-1 tie.
“Lack of backcheck,” Scott Gordon said about the game-winner that sunk his team to 4-4-2.
After creating space for himself by going after opponents and to the net hard, Matt Martin scored his first NHL goal when he converted a Frans Nielsen feed at the crease past Alex Auld at 16:45 of the second period. Tomas Plekanec opened the scoring with a power play goal just 2:42 into the game. Travis Moen closed it out with less than two minutes remaining in regulation.
John Tavares drew back-to-back penalties 17 seconds apart to Hal Gill and PK Subban to give the Islanders a 5-on-3 mid-second period. However, the Islanders failed to score.
Summarized Gordon: “At the end of the day, we couldn’t find the back of the net.”
TONIGHT’S FIVE BEST
1. Alex Auld - You have to tip your hat to a backup goaltender for playing his first game of the season and stopping 30 of 31 shots.
2. Roman Hamrlik - The ex-Isle may have lost a step, but plays smarter than ever. Logged a team-high 24:05.
3. Matt Martin – First NHL goal and a physical presence for most of his eleven minutes.
4. Tomas Plekanec - One goal, 12-8 at the faceoff dot and smooth playmaking.
5. Frans Nielsen – Not sure why he only got 15 minutes, while some struggling teammates played more than 20.
Honorable Mention: Josh Gorges - Montreal’s stay-at-home dman is one of the game’s most underrated players and leaders.
(FRANS) NIELSEN RATINGS (1-10)
NYI Performance - 6: The latest heartbreaking lesson in the slow-and-steady rebuild: You can play great for two periods, but fail to finish and have one lazy breakdown, you can go home with zero points.
Special Teams - 3: The Islanders were 0-6 on the power play and allowed one power play goal on just two opportunities. As much as they moved the puck around well, failure to score on the 5-on-3 for 1:43 was a killer.
Goaltending - 6: Not the reason they lost, not good enough to help his team win, Dwayne Roloson stopped 23 of Montreal’s 26 shots.
Opponent - 7: Montreal went with their backup goaltender, who played well, and took two points on the road. They struggled to execute against the Islanders’ forecheck after the opening period, but they got what they came for.
Game/Event - 8: The influx of Canadiens fans the last few years have given these games a World Cup feel. Islanders fans can get their tickets for the next one, Dec. 26.
Crowd - The crowd of 11,922 included some loud and proud Canadiens fans close to the benches and penalty boxes and, it appeared, many Islanders fans still streaming into the Coliseum after the opening faceoff who took advantage of the $20 special.
Scott Gordon revealed after the game that Rick DiPietro will start in Philadelphia on Saturday. The Islanders have not won there in a while with DiPietro on the shelf, so perhaps this will change the karma.
Career-long defenseman Bruno Gervais played right wing on the fourth line for 6:08 with Jon Sim and Zenon Konopka. The last time Gervais played as a forward, briefly, was 14 years ago.
Matt Martin stirred the crowd by knocking 6-6 Canadiens defenseman Hal Gill on his seat twice with hits in the first period. Martin crunched Jaroslav Spacek into the boards in the second period…Matt Moulson took a shot from a teammates off his arm in the third period, but later returned to action.
NYI first power play unit: Parenteau – Tavares – Comeau, Wisniewski/Weight
2nd: Bailey – Nielsen – Moulson; Mottau/Martinek
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