New York Islanders Win Shootout To Maintain Perfection
By Andrew Eichenholz
When Logan Couture dug his skates into the ice, all alone on the blue and orange logo sprawled across the neutral zone and surrounded by a raucous Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum crowd, he had a chance to give his San Jose Sharks an important lead in their shootout with the New York Islanders. As Jaroslav Halak pinched his pads together in an attempt to stop Couture, a career 42 percent shootout scorer before Thursday night, the Coliseum fell silent, a perfect record to stop the season in the balance.
It seemed as though it took Couture longer to wait for the referee’s whistle than it did for him to score his goal in the deciding shootout. Going back to basics and bursting into the slot gave him choices. None of the fancy stuff, in reality, how often does that work? Couture simply guided the puck to the slot and let it rip, not a chance for Halak.
For those who had to pace a bit to work off the nerves, nothing happened until the third, and typically final round of the shootout. Couture’s goal looked as though it may end the 3-0 Islanders start to the season, when Kyle Okposo took to the Long Island ice.
If the Minnesota native were to not convert his shot, the third chance the Islanders would have in the shootout, his team’s loss column would be marked up for the very first time in the 2014-2015 season.
Looping into the offensive zone slowly, Okposo cautiously took the puck from his forehand to backhand wings. What would he do? Quicker than he exchanged the puck once, he quickly went to the forehand and to the backhand again. Would opposing goaltender Alex Stalock make the first move? It did not make a difference, as Okposo quickly took it to his forehand and blasted it top shelf on the glove side to keep the Islanders alive.
The atmosphere was set, it was like it was meant to be for the Coliseum crowd. It was not quite time to get off the roller coaster ride of perfection to start the season.
After Ryan Strome could not give the Islanders the lead in the fourth round, Brent Burns, who scored earlier in the night, had a shot to end it for the Sharks. For a massive 6’5 mammoth like Burns, one would expect some sort of wrist shot or even a quick slapper in an attempt to overwhelm Halak. However, he tried to deke out the Islanders goalie, who stayed with him the entire way. Onto the fifth round it was for the Islanders and Sharks.
The fans went crazy as their young leader, John Tavares, stepped into the neutral zone for his shot. It is a shame that his statistics get nothing out of what he did, because Tavares would shock even his home crowd, who have seen him work his magic time and time again, with the play of the game.
The lefty moved in quickly, gaining momentum from his defensive zone before scooping the puck and taking it up the right wing. As quickly as he gained the zone, he came to a near stop, coming pretty close to showering Stalock with ice shavings as he started to make his move. In a matter of two seconds from the moment he came to what was just about a halt, Tavares transferred the puck from backhand to forehand eight times. Yes, eight times. Some players lose the handle shuffling it once, yet Tavares maintained complete control. It was the eighth deke that threw Stalock for a loop, as he fell off-balance to his stick side, leaving Tavares an opportunity to bring the puck on its ninth transfer of the sequence, burying a backhand top shelf on the glove side, in a nearly identical spot as Okposo had earlier. The Islanders had a lead.
As fans were stunned by their captain’s highlight reel goal, Joe Thornton failed to convert a tying attempt, giving Long Islanders what they wanted, a 4-3 shootout win, to move them to 4-0 on the year.