Islanders Fail to Hold Onto Late Lead; Fall to Winnipeg Jets in OT.
By Rich Dias-Rodrigues
Winnipeg, Manitoba — The New York Islanders have thrown away another victory because of incredibly sloppy, inconsistent, and just plain busch league hockey. They are, at present, terrible on the backcheck end of things, what with their weak, inconsistent, and impotent passing, their failure to properly execute a body check (especially in front of their net,) and an inability to hold the blue line inside an opponent’s end of the ice.
Enough already with the excuses: the players are still trying find their rhythm, or that this guy is still rusty, or that guy is still finding his game legs. The Islanders have everyone healthy and there are players hustling for pucks and producing scoring opportunities, and even putting pucks into the net. But the issue here is their consistent inconsistency.
For every one thing the Islanders do right, such as score an early goal, come from behind, forechecking and take a lead late in a game, are immediately undone by clumsy, amateurish puck cycling and terrible man to man coverage.
This loss is particularly gut-wrenching because the Jets are a team the Islanders have beaten and were beating right up until the 12:59 mark of the third period. This game should’ve ended 4-2. Plain and simple. But it didn’t.
The Islanders come away with just one point despite the efforts of John Tavares, David Ullstrom, and Evgeni Nabokov. Demoralizing doesn’t begin to cover it.
The Islanders must beat the Penguins to prove to everyone, beginning with themselves, that they are in fact a team with which to be reckoned–a team deserving of a playoff spot. Not a laughing stock.
For now, The Islanders are playing very poorly. And this one point is the ugliest one they’ve earned this year thus far. Ugly, nay, wretched. They are and can be such a better team than what they’ve shown through five games.
The Winnipeg Jets began the evening playing fast and aggressive hockey, taking shots on Nabokov early on and almost scoring within the first minute of the opening period; Nabokov would see 12 shots before the final whistle to end play, and he alone secured the tie going into the second.
The Islanders would strike first blood, however, with Aucoin’s third line, as David Ullstrom converted on a Tobias Enstrom (who had a horrible night himself) turnover, giving him his second goal of the season at the 2:34 mark of the first period.
Penalties to Colin McDonald (Slashing) and Kyle Okposo (Closing Hand on the Puck) tested the Isles PK unit early on, and they succeed on extending their dominance for another period of play. Travis Hamonic and Michael Grabner continue to work well on special teams, despite the team’s overall lackluster performance on display for most of the game, especially the first period.
The Jets’s turned the momentum in their favor by playing the body a bit more in the neutral zone, but more so in the Islanders end of the ice. Alex Burmistrov, stationed down low, tossed Islanders players around like rag dolls, eventually setting up Kyle Wellwood and Enstrom for a quick pass in front of the Isles’s crease that ended up on Alexei Ponikarovsky‘s stick and behind Nabokov at the 10:15 mark.
The game would stay tied until 5:13 of the second period, when Bryan Little scored the go-head, and giving the Jets the lead for the first time this evening.
The Islanders suffered from poor positioning, missing marks, and the uncanny inability to render any type of set plays inside Jets territory.
Yes, the game was entertaining and the pace frenetic, but from a purely analytical standpoint, both teams showed why most critics do not and will not consider them for post-season play at present.
By the close of the second period the Islanders were outshot 23 to 15 and outhit 21 to 11. Just not good enough for a road game. Any game, for that matter.
The one highlight is that Tavares scored his first goal of the season (and had a 3 point night to boot) scoring a mere 22 seconds into the third period, off a miscue that saw Enstrom fall to the ice and open up a lane for the speedy Tavares, beating Al Montoya on the breakway glove side.
The Islanders were riding high, having tied it up early and taking out the MTS Centre crowd in the process. Matt Moulson would feed off this newly-found spurt of energy, scoring the supposed go-head goal at the 5:09 mark, with assists by Tavares and Hamonic, giving the Islanders a 3-2 lead.
By the middle of the third, it seemed as if the Islanders would pull off a much needed victory and journey to Pittsburgh with enough vigor to salvage a decent showing on the road, as Mark Streit would add another tally on the Power Play, his second of the season.
The turning point for the Jets, though, comes when Ullstrom is called for a hooking penalty that upon closer inspection might very well have been a bad call. Whatever the case, it would prove the chink the armor, for the Islanders would give up their first goal on the PK this season at the hands of Dustin Byfuglien at 12:59, a heavy-handed slapshot from the point that sizzled past everyone, including a well-screened Nabokov.
The Jets and the MTS Centre come alive and suck dry whatever life remained in the Isles, tying it up two minutes later with a goal by the pesky Burmistrov, and eventually sending the game to overtime.
By the close of the third, the Islanders looked haggard, and aside from some decent chances early on in OT, it was only a matter of time before the Jets would take home the extra point up for grabs this evening, courtesy of Evander Kane.
The Islanders need to regroup and reconsider their game plan. They’re failing to rallying around fundamental hockey, and it is costing them points.
For now, this team is anything but playoff bound. Let’s hope they show up for a full 60 against the Penguins.
Follow Rich Diaz @eyesonisles
- Travis Hamonic left in the middle of the 2nd period with what was later described as an ankle injury. No word on the severity, or if he will be out for an extended period of time. Islanders are now down to five defensemen as of the publication of this article.
- John Tavares scores his first goal of the season, and is still one of the best players on the squad. He could be the next Bryan Trottier if only he had a Gillies, Nystrom, and/or Bossy to compliment his talent. #91/#19. Not an accident.
- Thomas Hickey showed some spirit, and I don’t disagree with him being on the squad. But I’d much rather see Radek Martinek dressed and ready to go. The Isles need him badly.
- The Islanders are showing teams just how anemic they are in the body-checking department, as guys like Colin McDonald would bounce off players like Dustin Byfuglien. Like the effort but without some size, the Isles will continue to lose the battles against the boards and in front of the net. Not good.
- It’s time to take a closer look at Jack Capuano. Good day to you.