Isles Defenders Tune Out The Blues In 5-2 Win
The New York Islanders defeated the St. Louis Blues this afternoon with a 5-2 win at the Nassau Coliseum. John Tavares had a goal and an assist to tie and then surpass his rookie season of 54 points. He now has 55 on the year in 63 games played with 24 goals and 31 assists. Tavares' goal was one for the highlight reel as he deked around not one, but two St. Louis skaters and then lifted a nifty backhand over the glove of Blues goal keeper, Ben Bishop.
"It started in our own end," said Tavares. "Hammer (Hamonic) made a good play and P.A. (Parenteau) made a great play up on the wall protecting it and feeding it through a couple sticks. I think it was Oshie that tried to block, he thought I was going to shoot so he kind of stiffened up as if he was going to block it. I just made a move around him and was able to put it in."
But the real story was behind defenseman Andrew MacDonald. Once Streit went down to injury, A-Mac had become relied upon heavily for offense on the blue line. Coming into this year he had only 7 points in 49 games played over two seasons. In 50 games this year he has 4 goals and 21 assists for 25 points, two of which came today to start a streak of three goals in his past two games played.
"He's a heart and soul kind of guy," said Tavares in regards to MacDonald's play. "He always doesn't make the highlights scoring goals like he does tonight. But he blocks a ton of shots, takes a lot of hits. He's great at escaping pressure and moving the puck up to us forwards and getting us on the attack. So things like that he's tremendous on. He's a huge leader in the locker room. He really stabilizes us back there."
In addition to his offensive performance, MacDonald has been wearing an A on his sweater for his leadership qualities on the blue line and is typically one of the leaders in ice-time as well. His first goal came from great work from Josh Bailey, who had one of his best games of the year, as he dug the puck out from the corner while on his back. MacDonald was then fed the puck at the blue line from Matt Martin and ripped a slap shot that rang off the cross-bar and in for his first goal of the game. His second goal came from a steal in the neutral zone. He came in on a breakaway once he poked the puck free from Blues forward Andy McDonald and wristed a shot over the glove of Bishop.
"It's great to see a guy like that get rewarded," said goaltender Al Montoya. "He can obviously shoot the puck; he gets it through, he does a great job getting the puck through from the point. And defensively he's made my game a lot easier. The way we communicate, especially all the D, the way we're communicating right now. It's making the game easy. They're taking away those hard plays for me and keeping it simple for the most part."
Overall the defense did play pretty well. In addition to MacDonald's goals, Hamonic had an assist on Tavares' show-stopper after getting the puck out of the zone and Jack Hillen lent a helping hand in Michael Grabner's 26th goal of the year, putting him at the lead in rookie goal scoring.
"There's been a lot of communication and guys are really doing their jobs down low," said MacDonald. "We've kind of had the mentality that strong defense leads to good offense. It's an old cliche but it's very true."
"Two goals is an added bonus but two points was definitely the best."
The Isles take a two-game winning streak against the red hot New Jersey Devils tomorrow afternoon in what has been called a "statement game" by Isles forward P.A. Parenteau, who also had a goal and an assist in this afternoon's tilt. Montoya agreed with his teammate and hopes to carry the momentum through the end of the season.
"Every time we're stepping on the ice right now, especially lately, we're making a statement. We want to go out there and show we're a different team and we're a team that's buying into the systems and playing strong and playing well down the stretch."
Strong play will certainly be needed to hold off the Devils playoff hopes.
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