Yes, the Isles lost 5-4 in the shootout. Yes, they got only 1 out of a possible 2 points. Yes, one could easily look at the box score and shrug it off as just another lost opportunity for the blue and orange.
However, unless you watched the game or heard it, you really won’t understand that the Islanders could have easily skated away with a victory. Only a lack of good fortune in the shootout was the real reason they did not get the 2 points. Well, that and a timely play by Niklas Hjalmarsson to sweep a puck from crossing the goal line from a John Tavares shot that had beaten Corey Crawford with under 5 minutes left in the third period when the game was knotted at 4.
Firs period goals from Kyle Okposo and Matt Moulson, and then 2 more in the third from PA Parenteau and Nino Niederreiter kept the Islanders shoulder to shoulder with the highly skilled Blackhawks. The Islanders, in fact, led the game 1-0 and 2-1 in the first, but then fought back from a 3-2 deficit after the 2nd period and then a 4-3 deficit in the 3rd period to take the game to overtime. Jonathan Toews ended up winning the game for the Hawks in the shootout.
The 2nd period was probably the “weakest” of the 3 frames played by the Islanders, yet the overall effort over the 65 minutes was probably the best of the season. Unfortunately, a couple of bad plays by the typically solid, Milan Jurcina, probably made the biggest difference, in particular, giving up the puck in the 2nd period to Jonathan Toews, who scored a shorty and gave the Hawks a 3-2 lead at the time. In the third period, though, the Islanders out shot Chicago 23-7 and out played them as well. It was, to me, a very entertaining and exciting 20 minutes that had me riveted at times.
Al Montoya got the start again between the pipes and played in his home town, making 32 of 36 saves. Frankly, to me, as he has been all season, he was fantastic in net for the Islanders. several times, he made some big saves, especially in the 2nd period. He really couldn’t be faulted for any of the 4 goals against him, and deserved the win as much as his counterpart, Corey Crawford, for the Hawks.
Here are a few thoughts that come to mind, call them “blind observations” if you will. Of course, opinions only, but here you go anyway.
• Nino Niederreiter needs to shoot the puck more often. The guy is, as far as I’m concerned, the “real deal”, and I think the more playing time he gets, we are going to see more and more good things from him.
• Matt Martin is coming into his own. He is a guy doing all the right things and earning his place on this team. It does this “old school” hockey fan’s heart a lot of good to see a guy who plays with so much determination and grit to be finding success.
• Kyle Okposo is back. Plain and simple. It’s good to have you back, Okie!
• Even when John Tavares is not scoring goals, he is making a difference. Again, another example of the “real deal”.
• PA Parenteau seems to go under the radar so much, but is quietly having a great season. His power play goal in the third period was a Big One for the Isles. I also believe he had another assist on Moulson’s goal with JT.
• Speaking of Moulson, when are the hockey experts going to admit Matt Moulson is not a flash in the pan? The man can score goals, and he has, thus far, done so consistently for 2 and a quarter seasons. I’ll let his preference for crap … I mean … rap music slide …
• Confidence and consistency = good things happening. Yeah, not a win, perhaps, but an impressive effort very much like we saw the last half of the previous season. There is nothing for this team to hang their heads about from last night.
So, it’s off to Dallas tonight to finish the 4 game road trip. It’s not going to be much easier either. This is a back to back deal in which a considerable amount of travel from Chicago to Dallas in 24 hours is involved. The Islanders are going to need to put it all out there and come up with another 60 minute effort.
I’d imagine we’ll see Rick DiPietro in net for the Islanders after last night, though Montoya did start back to back games last weekend. Either way, the Isles are going to need goals, and production from all four lines again. As I said before, they can realistically earn the 2 points tonight, but it’s going to require the same kind of consistency and solid effort we saw last night. I personally believe this team can do just that.
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