Isles End Losing Streak At Home, Defeat Senators 3-2 In The Shootout
It took a dramatic finish, but the New York Islanders finally won a game on home ice during a Sunday matinee game, defeating the Ottawa Senators 3-2 in the shootout.
The Islanders got on the board early in the game when Brad Boyes scored his fifth of the year, beating Robin Lehner glove side under the crossbar. The play started when Matt Moulson received a pass from Mark Streit at the Senators blue line and fed Boyes the puck as he was flying up the slot.
Not long after Boyes' goal, Matt Martin was found banging bodies all over the ice. In fact Martin had 6 hits in just over 3 minutes of play during the first period. Senators enforcer Chris Neil took exception to Martin's physical play and challenged him to a fight, but Martin ignored his request and continued to take out Senators along the wall.
He finished with 11 hits on the night. Coming into the game, Martin was just one shy of tying Buffalo Sabres forward Steve Ott for the league lead of 94 hits.
After the game, Martin and I discussed his chances of retaining his title as the NHL's hits leader, an accomplishment he earned last season.
"(Laughs) I mean I just play physical, it's second nature for me," said Martin. "I always finish my checks, it's really what they pay me for. Obviously we did a good job of getting pucks deep and, as a line, playing physical tonight. I think it kind of took its toll against a team that played yesterday."
Martin's line mates, Casey Cizikas and Colin McDonald, were physical throughout all three periods and were seen on the ice in several key moments where momentum could have easily been shifted. Martin said that head coach Jack Capuano looks to his line to prevent those momentum shifts and provide a spark for his team when needed.
"He (Capuano) said the other night that he doesn't look at us as a fourth line; he looks at us an energy line. We like that, we thrive off that. We thrive off each other. We're all on the same page out there. We know what we got to do and we know what we want to do. We love going out there against Alfredsson, Turris, getting the opportunity to show that we can play with those guys and shut them down. Like I said, we had a good game today. Obviously there was a bad bounce on the one goal, but we'll look forward to Tuesday."
The Isles held the lead up until Mika Zibanejad scored his fourth of the year from Neil after Andrew MacDonald had trouble controlling the puck in front of Evgeni Nabokov, who made a total of 29 saves on 31 shots.
The game remained tied until the third period when Michael Grabner came flying in off the bench to pick up a loose puck and beat Lehner low-glove side for his eighth of the year. Marty Reasoner was credited with the assist after digging the puck out from along the boards.
But a controversial penalty to Kyle Okposo would cost the Isles the lead with only 1:48 remaining in the game. Okposo went after the puck along the boards and got his foot caught between a Senator's legs, taking him out along the wall for a tripping minor. Some of the players in the locker room felt that it was a questionable call. However, the replay appeared that Okposo might have simply been undisciplined when he extended his leg to bring down the opposing player.
I asked head coach Jack Capuano about the call. Although he admitted that he hadn't seen the replay, his words indicated that might have felt that his team was on the short end of the stick of a marginal call.
"I haven't seen it," said Capuano. "For me to look, he's going after, I haven't got a chance to see it on video yet. We had our power plays. At the end of the year it all averages itself out. So the referees did the best job they can do. They got one, we didn't get anything on our power play."
Patrick Wiercioch would earn his first of the year after redirecting a shot that came off of Kyle Turris' stick. Sergei Gonchar had the secondary helper. And off to overtime they went.
Several chances were exchanged for both teams in the extra period, but a shootout would be required to get the final decision.
Frans Nielsen went up first for the Islanders and continued to drift away from his famous backhand move by scoring on a forehand wrist shot that beat Lehner low and over his pads. Nabokov would make two saves against Jakob Silfverberg and Daniel Alfredsson while Boyes wound up shooting wide.
Up came John Tavares as the third shooter. Despite feeling under the weather, JT managed to pull a move out of his bag of tricks that had the entire audience stunned. After coming in straight on Lehner, Tavares deked to his forehand and then dragged the puck one handedly on his backhand around the Sens goaltender after he committed to the initial fake.
The highlight reel goal propelled the Islanders to their first home victory since February 23rd and puts them at 9-11-2 for a total of 20 points. They are presently three points shy of the eighth placed Philadelphia Flyers.
The Islanders continue their home stand against the red hot Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday at 7 PM.