Well, for once the Islanders took the national TV stage and made it their own. They climbed to within 10 pts of the final playoff spot in the East with a 1-0 victory over the Washington Capitals.
No one will ever confuse this game with a highlight reel performance. Evgeni Nabokov certainly showed up as did Caps goalie Michal Neuvirth. Was it exciting? Eh. Then again the Stadium Series game wasn’t exactly a treat either.
Bottom line here, Isles won a division game against someone they’re chasing. Furthermore, they won a game when scoring under 3 goals. In fact, this was the first 1-0 win of the season. Hard to make the playoffs when you win 3 low scoring affairs all season.
It was a win, but it wasn’t easy. The Isles came out in the first and put forth a decent effort. Although the stats were even at the end of the period, Washington clearly had the better of the play in the first. They had the better chances and tested Evgeni Nabokov on numerous occasions. Fortunately for the Islanders, Nabby stood tall.
The Isles turned it on in the second and had the better of play. The teams traded a lot of chances but both goalies were at the top of their game. There were a couple of things that stood out about the second. Thomas Vanek was manhandled from behind by Connor Carrick as he sped in on the breakaway. Although an odd call of holding was made, Vanek should have gotten a penalty shot. If that wasn’t a clear breakaway, I don’t know what is.
The other major thing in the second was the Matt Martin‘s hard hit from behind on Dmitry Orlov. The drama starters at NBCSN were beside themselves with anger at the blatant disregard Matt Martin has apparently for human life. They took him to the cleaners. “He didn’t bother to slow down”, they said. He did. “He could have really hurt Orlov if he was a foot closer to the boards”. Despite the dramatics, Martin was only given a 2 minute boarding penalty, Orlov was fine and life shockingly managed to go on as normal.
The third period was a lot like the second. The Islanders had the better of play and finally made it pay off. 2:16 into the third, right after the Islanders failed on a Power Play attempt, Andrew MacDonald ripped a shot from the blue line that got through a crowd and beat a screened Neuvirth to give the Isles the lead.
The rest of the period went pretty much the Isles way. Michael Grabner would get a Penalty Shot later in the period, while shorthanded, after being taken down on a breakaway that was no different than Vanek’s. Grabner, not known for his breakaway scoring skills, would fail on the attempt, but the Isles would go on to kill the rest of the penalty.
Again, both sides had their opportunities, but for once the Isles D held tight. The Isles were able to kill off a late penalty taken by Lubomir Visnovsky for tripping league pet Alex Ovechkin with 3:05 left in the game. With Neuvirth pulled and the Caps down a goal, they really didn’t put much sustained pressure on Nabokov. The Isles won a few key draws with under 35 seconds to go and hung on for a 1-0 victory against a division opponent. Evgeni Nabokov picked up his 13th career victory against the Caps, a team he has always played well in. Washington used to be a house of horrors for the Isles. Not so much anymore.
Neither goalie was particularly busy with Nabby making 22 saves in the win and Neuvirth making 27 saves in the loss. Apparently 5 extra saves gets you the 1st star of the game. Neuvirth did make a number of nifty saves and honestly Nabokov was never truly tested, so maybe the number 2 star was earned by Nabby.
I’ve said it before and I will say it again. They had 4 games left before the break when they faced the Rangers last. They needed to go at least 3-1 to make this interesting. They are now 1-1 with a game against Calgary, a team they absolutely can and should beat up next on Thursday. The final game before the break is Saturday against Colorado; a team that was absolutely dismantled by the Rangers this evening. Again, that is a team the Islanders could and should beat. For all the talk about trading Thomas Vanek, let’s see the Isles make things interesting before the Olympic break. If things break right, they could be just 6 points out 96 hours from now. Let’s see how things play out. Maybe it’s worth keeping the best #26 the Isles have had since Pat Flatley around just a little bit longer. Remember, you have to give something to get something. If the Isles show a commitment to him, who knows? Just a thought.
Back to the Island vs Calgary on Thursday.
PS. Don’t boo Vanek. Let’s show some class please. If you want the guy to have a chance at coming back, show him who the best fans in the NHL are.