On Thursday night the Islanders decided to prove a point to the rest of the NHL with their convincing win over the Predators.
When a team goes through a little lapse of effort, the next game is usually a determining factor on whether they are for real or not.
Two nights ago the New York Islanders beat the Hurricanes in Carolina but admittedly put forth a lackluster effort. Tonight they made a statement to the rest of the NHL as they convincingly handled the league’s best in the Nashville Predators, 5-2.
It was an eye-opening dominant performance by a team that keeps on trucking along.
New York shot out of the gate quickly as defenseman Brian Strait scored only a minute into the game on a shot circle high. Michael Grabner, who’s already made his presence felt after returning from injury, made the play happen as he forced a turnover high in the offensive zone. Frans Nielsen collected the other assist.
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Then, another defenseman added to the offense as Johnny Boychuk put one past the front funner for the Hart Trophy. John Tavares scored a power play goal with just under two minutest to go in the period.
The Isles had the dreaded three-goal lead, but because it’s so dreaded it didn’t last long.
20-year old rookie sensation Filip Forsberg responded quickly to Tavares’ goal by putting one past Halak 1:21 later and with only 18 seconds left in the frame.
Momentum carried over into the second as James Neal scored his 21st goal of the season, cutting the lead to one for the Isles.
At that moment, Nassau Coliseum had Monday night on their minds and started to wonder if their team would ever have the ability to hold a big lead.
They quickly answered that question while sending a message to the rest of the league.
Feb 19, 2015; Uniondale, NY, USA; New York Islanders center Anders Lee (27) and center John Tavares (91) celebrate a goal by left wing Josh Bailey (12) (not pictured) during the third period against the Nashville Predators at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. New York Islanders won 5-2. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports
The rest of the second period saw shutout hockey on both sides. Jaroslav Halak who received a night off on Tuesday came back into net tonight and played well stopping 30 of 32 Nashville shots.
The third period started with both teams looking to break the slight scoreless feel. The Isles best player of the night, Nick Leddy lit the lamp on a wicked slapshot just a little over seven minutes into the period, increasing the lead to two. It was the third defenseman to score for the Isles on the night.
Leddy finished with a goal and two assists earning number-one star honors.
”That’s what good teams do,” Leddy said. ”You can’t worry about the past. It’s a long season.”
After the Leddy goal, Josh Bailey scored a minute and a half later to essentially put the game away.
More impressive than knocking off the team who leads the league with 84 points is the fact that they stared another collapse in the face and overcame it. It was a game that featured grit, effort and overall solid balance from all four lines and all three combinations.
Pekka Rinne hadn’t allowed more than two goals in any of his last five starts. The Islanders hit him up for a five-spot tonight.
With the Rangers losing in a shootout to the Vancouver Canucks tonight, the Isles now lead the Blueshirts by five points. They must think of it as a closer race though having played three extra games.
Next up will be the NHL’s leading goal scorer in Alexander Ovechkin and the Capitals in Washington DC on Saturday night.
3 Stars of the Game
- Nick Leddy, NYI – 1 goal, 2 assists
- John Tavares, NYI – 1 goal, 1 assist
- Michael Grabner, NYI – 2 assists