Isles Strike Oil With 4-1 Win Over Edmonton

Ken Morrow (Official New York Islanders/Flickr)The Islanders played host this afternoon to the Edmonton Oilers on Ken Morrow night, as the former Isles defenseman was being inducted into the Islanders Hall of Fame. The last player to be inducted a little over a month ago was the team's first captain, Ed Westfall. The home team would go on to lose 6-0 that night to the Boston Bruins. But today Ken Morrow's name would ring with pride as the Islanders would go on to win 4-1 and establish a two-game winning streak.

The first period saw the Isles take a 1-0 lead on the power play as Ben Eager was serving a roughing penalty. And get used to that statement, because Eager made himself right at home in the shameful sin bin with a total of 16 PIMs on the day, not one of them from a fighting major. PA Parenteau would drag the puck through the slot and have it taken away from him, only to land perfectly on John Tavares' stick. With Devan Dubnyk down and out of position after the puck changed directions, Tavares was able to bury the puck with ease. Matt Moulson had the secondary assist.

The Oilers would tie the game later in the period after a fluky shot made it's way past Evgeni Nabokov. Nino Niederreiter was caught out of position, forcing him to dive stick first in order to block the shot from the point. He got a piece of it, allowing the puck to change directions and pinball it's way through the crease. Sam Gagner was credited with the goal with the assists going to Corey Potter and former Islander Andy Sutton.

The Isles top unit of Moulson-Tavares-Okposo was kept together after head coach Jack Capuano shuffled the lines on Thursday night. The trio would not disappoint as Moulson would score twice before the period was over. However, the first goal was waved off as it was ruled that he kicked the puck into the net. Although there did not appear to be a "distinct kicking motion," Moulson did angle his foot and push it slightly forward as the puck changed directions off of his skate. But it wasn't much later that Moulson would score a real one. Kyle Okposo would get the puck up to Tavares who then shrugged off the Oilers defender and delivered a nifty spin-o-rama move to find Moulson all alone in the slot; there was no question that this one was going to count. 

Kyle Okposo (Bleedin' Teal in AZ/Flickr)"Yeah I think that we got pretty good chemistry right there," said Okposo in regards to his not-so-new line mates. These three played together at the end of the season two years ago and were always fun to watch.

"You know, John is such an easy guy to play with. He's really picked up his game, especially the last two games he's been exceptional. Matty's so smart, such a smart player. We seem to have a little bit of chemistry and we're just going to try to keep it going."

Since Okposo joined this line, Tavares has had two goals and a total of four points in the past two games. I asked Kyle if he felt that his presence was helping Tavares make a difference in his play.

"I hope so. I mean the one that he got tonight was on the power play. But I feel like I just kind of try to give him some room to operate. Another big body, I can try to hold guys off and give him some space. He's really finding his game and he's been playing well all year and now he's starting to see the benefits of that."

Okposo certainly has added an element of hard work and hustle that has drawn the eye of opposing defenders. Parenteau was always a hard working skater on this line, but there is definitely something about Okposo's play that seems to be making a difference, especially along the walls and behind the net. 

"Me personally, I just want to keep going like I am," said Okposo as the Islanders head into the New Year with a winning streak. "Ever since I got back in the line-up I think I've been playing a lot better. I just got to try to keep going and work on my game, and as a team we just got to go on a couple runs here and that's what we got to do."

The second period saw Matt Martin continue to deliver big hits and exemplify the definition of discipline. After sending a crushing blow to an Oilers defenseman who had his head down, enforcer Ben Eager stepped up to the plate and tried to goat Martin into a fight. Martin kept the gloves on and drew an Islanders power play that would end up being converted by P.A. Parenteau. Frans Nielsen dished the puck to Moulson to the left of the Oilers net who found Parenteau all alone in the slot. Once he settled the puck down, Parenteau rifled a wrister past Dubnyk for his seventh goal of the year, giving him his team leading 32nd point on the season.

"No it wasn't tough at all," said Parenteau in regards to being taken off the top line. "I think a little change never hurts a team. I think we did it earlier in the season, it worked out for us. It's not bad to spread the offense out a bit and I think we're doing a good job right now."

I asked Parenteau if the change had anything to do with Capuano looking to get a little more offense out of the second line, but he said he will play with whoever and enjoys the current tandem.

"No, not really. We don't talk about that kind of stuff. We go out there and play with whoever you're playing with. I think Roly's a good shooter and pretty good passer and Franzy does everything out there. It's a good match right now."

Here is the video clip courtesy of Islanders TV in which I started off the post-game interview with P.A. Parenteau:

 

Martin would score his fourth goal of the year with Josh Bailey and Michael Grabner picking up the assists on a bit of a fluky play. Not much after the Islanders converted on the power play that Martin drew on Eager, Bailey would find Martin by the right face-off dot. He would send what seemed to be an innocent wrist shot at Dubnyk that hit off his blocker and into the net. It may have been a dirty goal, but at the very least it was a reward to Martin for his hard work.

The third period didn't see any scoring, despite the Islanders continued peppering of Dubnyk in net. The Islanders were out shot in both the first and second periods, despite having a sizable lead. But the Islanders would double the Oilers shot total, 16-8 in the third period, showing a relentless effort to maintain the victory. 

A two-game winning streak in which the Isles scored seven goals while only allowing two against in the past two games is a great way to end 2011. But even though the year is just a few hours away from ending, Matt Moulson was unsure of what his New Year's resolution should be after Yes! Islanders' John Zadrozny sent him the question.

"My resolution on the ice for the New Year? I don't know that's a good question. I think I have to talk it over with Johnny this afternoon."

Just keep scoring goals. How's that sound?

-Rob McGowan

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