Calgary Flames (21-28-7, 49pts) @ New York Islanders (22-28-8, 52pts)
Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum
NHL Game #856
The New York Islanders have all but sealed their fate tonight, losing against a lackluster team in the Calgary Flames in an equally lackluster performance from all.
Garbage goals and mental lapses defined the events of the evening, and the Islanders couldn’t quite elevate their play to the level of which they’re capable. All too familiar theme to most games this year.
Tonight’s loss typifies the type of season it’s been for the Islanders, one marked by stunted expectations, debilitating injuries, and frustrating miscues and underwhelming play.
Calgary brought with them a decent winning streak to the Island, but nothing that the Orange and Blue couldn’t challenge with even so much as a half-decent effort, which was non-existent through 40:00.
The lackadaisical and erratic forecheck by the Isles top-six all but assured a loss this evening, and if it not for the efforts of pinching defensemen in Thomas Hickey and Calvin de Haan, the Isles would’ve laid the goose egg tonight.
Garth Snow was seen entering the Islanders locker room immediately following the loss, and the foreboding didn’t escape anyone here in the press box.
Something has to change, but what and when that change happens doesn’t affect the Isles chances of making the playoffs. That shipped sailed in late November.
Okay, maybe not that early, but certainly casting off this evening, one must assume.
- First Period
The first 5:00 minutes saw little in the way of set plays and definitive entry into respective offensive zones for each team, trumped only ever so slightly by some quick and equally short-lived end-to-end action that saw the Islanders owe much of the scoring opportunities at this juncture.
Kyle Okposo and Thomas Vanek had an opportunity to score midway through the first period on a partial 2-on-1, but Vanek’s attempt was eaten up by a sprawled Flames defenseman in front of Reto Berra.
The Islanders first Power Play was plagued by hesitation and broken passes and uneven offensive zone presence to warrant any type of opportunities on the equally lackluster Calgary Flames PK unit.
By the 5:59 mark, the Isles owed the majority of SOG with 11 to Calgary’s 5 by period’s end, as well as the momentum throughout, but as is the case most of the season, the Islanders have yet to take a game’s throat early on and keep the pressure on outright.
Cal Clutterbuck and Michael Grabner created a 2-on-1 breakaway attempt, but Clutterbuck’s saucer pass was much too unruly for the speedy Grabner to handle, and the Isles best scoring attempt of the game thus far when uncapitalized.
- Second Period
Islanders couldn’t capitalize on their man-advantage, and that which defined the first frame defined the first half of the second: continued end-to-end with no real purpose, as most of the play was relegated to the perimeter, and the few breakout moments summarily broken up upon entry into the offensive zone.
Okposo and Tavares came close in converting on a 2-on-1 early on, but a timely slash to Tavares’s stick (which broke in half) nullified that chance; no call was made, as the replay showed the Flames defenseman came down on the Isles captain’s stick just as the shot was being made and the stick bending with force.
Whatever the case, ’twas a scoreless sheet midway through the period.
New York still without a notch on the belt, and the familiar feeling of “when’s that garbage goal by the Flames to end it all coming” starts to creep in.
Surely enough, the garbage arriveth at the 14:50 mark, as a bouncing puck was sand-wedged in by Sean Monahan with traffic in front of the Isles netminder.
An already boring game marked by a terrible goal, all but deflated the Isles chances at making some headway in the contest.
Matters worsen for New York, as Thomas Hickey is called for Holding the Stick and the Flames’ Dennis Wideman goes top shelf on a wrist shot to sink the Isles even deeper–a sense of gloom settles over this game, as the wind in the Isles sails is all but sapped.
Thomas Vanek appeared to injury his ankle sliding into the boards on a broken-up 2-on-1 with Tavares, but would return to finish the contest.
Thomas Hickey would avenge his gaffe, getting the Isles within 1, as a missed chance by Bailey lands on the Isles defenseman’s tape and in the back of the net; credit the diligent blue-line work of Colin McDonald who found Bailey in front of Berra, and then thank Berra for the rebound that landed on Hickey’s lap.
- Third Period
A look to the scoreboard reveals a SOG differential that belies the score: 22-11, illustrating an Isles team with little in the way of aggressive forechecking and lacking the desperation needed to make any potent run at a playoff berth, let alone a victory tonight.
Calvin de Haan evens the score, however, with a low, hard wrist shot that outright beats Berra stick-side, at the 7:31 of the period; his second of the year.
Suffice to say that the rookie defenseman is the one thing the Isles can hang there hat on this season. Suddenly the Isles seemed to be back in it.
Isles owned the majority of the play, and finally took advantage of a stale, flat, and disengaged Calgary team; New York skated well in and around the offensive zone, shooting more often than seen in the previous two frames.
With 5:32 left on the clock, however, the Flames rush the Isles net and a crowded Nabokov couldn’t defend against a Matt Stajan bank shot that snuck in through the Nabby’s five-hole, giving the Flames their second lead of the game.
The Flames would eventually up their ante on SOG, cutting the margin to 6, 27-21 by the 4:35 mark of the 3rd, and all but owning the remaining minutes of the matchup.
The Isles would catch a break via a Hooking call on Jiri Hudler late in the frame, but squandered it, and an empty-netter cinches the deal for Calgary, and, perhaps, closing out the season for New York.
Final Score: 4-2 Flames
Stats Sheet Summary
- T. Hickey gets 4th goal of the season
- J. Bailey with his 15th assist
- C. McDonald his 5th assist of the year
- J. Tavares racks his 42nd assist for the year
- T. Vanek gets his 29th assist, and perhaps his final point as an Islander
- C. de Haan with his 2nd notch of the year
The Isles are set to faceoff against the Colorado Avalanche this Saturday, their last game before the 3-week Sochi hiatus.
Perhaps the break will help the Isles straighten out what needs to be straightened in time to have a decent finish to this disappointing season.