Montoya Holds Firm In Isles' Road Win
In yet another of a seemingly endless string of low scoring affairs, the Islanders went to Buffalo on Tuesday night and shuffled out of town with a win.
The Islanders, who hadn't won consecutive road affairs since March, were bouyed by the fine (and sometimes downright spectacular) play of Al Montoya.
Montoya, who improved his season's numbers to a 2.07 Goals Against Average and .933 save percentage, has clearly established himself as the best goalie employed on Long Island. For head coach Jack Capuano to even consider starting Rick DiPietro ahead of him at this point is laughable.
It took a power play after a hi-sticking call against Buffalo (you're going to make me type Paul Szczechura's name, aren't you?), a deflected shot from the point, and subsequent replays to determine that Matt Moulson had opened the scoring. (The goal was never in doubt, mind you, just the credit for it). Nevertheless, the Islanders held a lead with 6:47 remaining in the first period.
For 'Mighty Matt' it was his 8th goal of the season, tying him with John Tavares for the team lead.
The Islanders, who at times this season have played with lackluster effort after the opening stanza, played a solid game throughout, especially in the second period, creating chances for themselves, but were unable to widen the gap. Montoya, was tested several times in the frame, but each time escaped unscathed.
Atypically, the Isles were still holding on to a shutout after two periods.
Throughout the night the Islanders received good play from Tavares, Frans Neilsen, Kyle Okposo, and Michael Grabner, to name a few. Each was showing good speed, energy, and creating space for themselves and chances for teammates. It was a team effort though, with observers noting the so-called "FnGo" line having their best game in recent memory.
On a night where he made 30 saves, many in brilliant fashion, Montoya's only misstep came early in the third period on an unlucky broken play. The recipient of a fortuitous bounce right onto his blade, Buffalo's center Jochen Hecht slid a puck past Montoya to knot the game at one goal apiece.
Hecht was assisted by Jason Pominville and Thomas Vanek on his even strength goal.
After killing a long 5-on-3 Buffalo power play, the Islanders reestablished their lead on a Brian Rolston tally. Rolston needed two swipes at the puck, but sent it in. Of note, youngster David Ullstrom notched his first National Hockey League point with an assist on it.
2-1 was the final score, as the Islanders were unable to add an empty net goal after Jhonas Enroth vacated the Buffalo net in the final moments of the game.
Montoya's 30 saves, including 14 in the final period, led him to earn the game's first star. Andrew MacDonald (22:49) and Travis Hamonic (22:21) logged the game's highest minutes totals while performing yeoman's work on defense, each blocking four shots.
The Islanders improve their overall record to 7-11-4 and are now 2-5-2 in road games. They end November with a 4-7-2 record. They are also back over .500 as a franchise, a statistic that has been beaten to death over the last month or so.
The Islanders will look to continue their mini-surge on Friday evening when they travel to Chicago to take on the Central Division Blackhawks.