December 21, 2011

Isles First Trip to New Winnipeg A Success

The Islanders made their first trip to Winnipeg since 1996, and it turned out well for them, and better than I actually expected it to.

Both teams came out pretty strong offensively for the beginning of the game, with neither looking too strong on defense.

P.A. Parenteau would get the Islanders' first goal after a nice rush by John Tavares and Matt Moulson. Moulson did a fantastic job of threading the needle to a wide open Parenteau on Ondrej Pavelec's left.

Nikolai Antropov got Winnipeg on the board after tipping in Johnny Oduya's slap shot off of a face-off. It was a very heads up play by both Antropov and Andrew Ladd to cross paths at the right time so one could shield Al Montoya while the other went to get his stick on the puck.

The Islanders would get the lead back in the second, after a shot by Travis Hamonic got through Pavelec and hit the post, sitting there until Michael Grabner came in and finished the job for his tenth of the year. Ladd and Antropov would work together to tie the game up once again, with Antropov using his 6'6" frame to distract Montoya from seeing Ladd's long range shot.

Late in the second period, Milan Jurcina chased Evander Kane towards the crease, leaving the forward little space to maneuver around Montoya. Instead, Kane went crashing into him, leaving Montoya sprawled on the ice for a few minutes. He would eventually get up but did not return. Evgeni Nabokov got his first action since November 17th.

Nabokov did not look rusty at all, stopping all 19 shots that came his way. He didn't have any moments where he looked uncomfortable, and there were definitely no moments where I felt uneasy about having him in the net - well, until the shootout (or so I thought).

But that was also a pleasant surprise, with Nabokov stopping both shots that he saw. Parenteau and Frans Nielsen both scored for the Isles using their signature moves - skate in and shoot high for Parenteau, forehand-to-backhand deke for Nielsen.

The game was pretty much wide open, with neither committing a great deal to defense and the refs swallowing their whistles. I personally like games that go that way, and enjoyed last night very much (for as much as anyone can enjoy a regular season game). If there was any more game left than the 65 minutes, the Islanders would have been in trouble - for much of the third period, it felt like they were beginning to have trouble dealing with the size of the Jets forwards who were doing quite well on the forecheck.

The only constant for the Islanders on defense was Hamonic, who took some nice shots and made several excellent defensive plays. Perhaps being close to home had something to do with that. On offense, the defensemen were quick to get the puck back deep into the zone, and in the general area of the net.

In the end, we should all be happy the Isles were able to walk away with two points. In the back of my mind, I'm not thrilled with giving one up to a team we are chasing, however. But we'll worry about that if the time comes.

The Isles will take their two straight shootout wins back home now, but will make a stop at MSG to take on the Rangers first.


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