Isles Cool Off Flames
The New York Islanders’ two games earlier this week against the New York Rangers showed how important a great goaltender is; the Islanders found out tonight what it’s like to have one in their goal.
Evgeni Nabokov, after giving up a goal on the 1st shot he faced, stopped the next 29 as the Islanders got a much needed 3-1 win over the Calgary Flames.
Former Islanders great Tim Jackman scored just 1:11 into the game as his attempt deflected off Andrew MacDonald’s skate to give the Flames an early 1-0 lead. It was the 8th time in 35 games that the Isles have given up a goal on their opponent’s first shot of the game.
The game was playing in Calgary’s favor as the Isles looked hesitant to push the issue in front of Miikka Kiprusoff. A spirited skirmish spilled out towards the end of the first period. After Kyle Okposo took an obvious check to the head by Lee Stempniak that went without a penalty, Matt Moulson sprung to Okposo’s defense and took Stempniak down. After everything was settled, it was Calgary, not the Isles, who would have the man advantage. Moulson received a double minor to the angst of the 14,819 in attendance.
This was the turning point in the game. The Isles were able to kill the penalty and 3:04 into the second had the game tied. P.A Parenteau found a wide open MacDonald who one-timed a shot past Kiprusoff for his third goal of the season - all against Northwest Division opponents.
The game was tied until 3:20 of the third period as John Tavares took the puck to the net on a great individual effort and slipped the puck past the outstretched Kiprusoff to the give the Islanders a 2-1 lead. A curious High Sticking penalty against Michael Grabner gave the Flames an opportunity to tie the game with under seven minutes to play. Josh Bailey and Matt Martin continued their strong play on the penalty kill and a potential tying goal was avoided.
Kiprusoff went to the bench with just over a minute to go but Brian Rolston sealed the two points for the home team with an empty net goal at 19:17. Parenteau had another assist to give up 24 on the season to go with six goals. He is currently leading the Islanders in points with 30.
One of the best efforts of the season, hands down. Props to the huge crowd in attendance for tonight’s game. It was good to have a home advantage in our building and the players fed off it as the game progressed. The first minute of the game was all Islanders. Great cycling of the puck by the Tavares line but Mike Mottau lost control of the puck and 11 seconds later.. Flames lead and the just settling in crowd were stunned. The team raised their level of play after Okposo took a shoulder to his face. Looking at the play live, it looked like a head hit. Moulson was the first one in to defend Okposo and took a double minor for his efforts. After that point in the game, the Islanders played their best hockey of the season. Nabokov showed exactly why Detroit pushed so hard to get him signed last season after his brief stint in the KHL. He was a lot more fluent in his motion and looked healthy for the first time since his return to the lineup. If the past games are a showcase for a possible trade then whichever team obtains him will have a solid goaltender, if not the Islanders should continue to ride him until Al Montoya is completely concussion free. He is their best option even if #39 comes back going forward.
Glad to see Blake Comeau do nothing in his return to Long Island. He was not well received by the fans in attendance and for the most part was invisible. He was not Jarome Iginla invisible, but he did nothing to change the game for his team. Iginla looked disinterested in the game tonight. When you think about the Calgary Flames, he is the first player that comes to mind. The second and third periods looked like the entire team with the exception of Kiprusoff were passengers. A lesser quality goaltender gives up 6 or 7 tonight. The new lines paid off, at least for one game. Kyle Okposo and Tavares were the best non-goaltenders on the ice. Okposo got his bell rung in the 1st period, but from there was constantly involved in the play and had the primary assist on Tavares game winner. Speaking of Tavares, he is playing a higher level right now. To quote my father via his first period text message. ‘he is flying out there tonight.’ My dad should be doing something sports related for a living, his analysis is generally right on point.
For a team that was playing great hockey in Calgary, they sure didn’t look like a team fighting for a playoff spot. It does make you wonder why the Islanders play so well against the Western Conference? This season the Isles’ record is 5-2-4 vs the west compared to 7-15-2 vs Eastern Conference teams. It could be that teams are not familiar with each other and that\ gives younger teams like the Isles’ a opportunity to take full advantage. If a team doesn’t see Tavares but once a season, some of the small things he is doing better each game is not noticed. He is not a physical player by any means, but he is growing into his body and has become more powerful on the puck.
Tonight was a small glimpse into what could be for the Islanders going forward. Saturday’s game becomes a must two points for this team. The arena will likely be sold out and they welcome another legend into their hall of fame. The Oilers of October are much different then the Oilers of December. Play with the same quality of play against Edmonton and two points are very attainable.
Three Stars For Tonight
Evgeni Nabokov- Nabby kept the Isles in games against the Rangers. Tonight he was absolutely the difference maker.
John Tavares - Game Winning goal and an assist. He was the best forward for the Isles and did everything he could to get everyone involved in the action. His move in front on the goal showed maturity and a will to finish what he started. Great signing by Garh Snow inking him to a long contract. He is, and will continue to be, the face of the franchise.
Mikka Kiprusof f- Single handily kept Calgary in the game. The MacDonald goal was on a world class one time shot and Tavares looked like a young Pavel Datsyuk on the second
Final Word -
Great win, great atmosphere. Hope to see everyone again Saturday Night!