February 15, 2013

Isles Rally to Beat Rangers 4-3 in Shootout

For a while, the outcome for the Islanders looked like it wouldn't be any different than previous games. Another loss seemed to be in the cards. But they were able to rally around one another, ultimately sealing the deal in the shootout to avoid losing their sixth straight game.

The game started off with good pace from both sides, with a few rushes up each end. The Isles, clearly feeling the game against Carolina was the 'last straw' as Howie Rose put it, showed some good play on the physical end of things with Casey Cizikas and Matt Martin the guys who lead the charge there. Eric Boulton and Aaron Asham fought to bring that physical tone to the forefront.

Unfortunately, the Islanders weren't able to harness that early energy into much of anything as Dan Girardi would score an early goal. From that point on for the remainder of the first, the Islanders played on their heels and looked very slow and sluggish. Their attitude was permeating a "not again" feeling.

These problems were compounded when you look at play of individual guys at times. Even John Tavares struggled, giving up the puck frequently and trying to force passes that weren't there. A couple of times he gave up a puck from the middle of the ice, trying to get it past two Rangers and get it to his wingers. But, they only resulted in turnovers.

The pairing of Andrew MacDonald and Travis Hamonic had their share of problems too. MacDonald has really struggled all year and that didn't change Thursday, despite a couple of nice blocks. I think he's playing more minutes than he probably should be, and is bringing out some of the worst in Hamonic. I think it's well beyond the time that these two get split up.

With problems generating any kind of momentum, Jack Capuano went with a different look to start the second period. I'll admit I was a bit confused with the idea of starting a gritty line in a game you were down two goals, but for the Islanders it payed off as Colin McDonald cut the Rangers lead to one just 32 seconds in. And things turned around shortly after that.

For much of the second period, I felt the Isles dominated the play, scoring three goals within the first eight or so minutes of the period, and even killing of some Ranger powerplays, including a 5-on-3. The Islanders got their tying goal from Tavares just seconds after that huge kill.

On defense one guy who really stood out to me once again was Lubomir Visnovsky. His passing has been impeccable, and he helped to created the Islanders third goal by Brad Boyes, just 40 seconds after Tavares scored.

Unfortunately the Islanders would relinquish the new found lead, but momentum never completely changed in the Rangers favor. The Islanders were caught scrambling at times, letting some defensive breakdowns seep in but Evgeni Nabokov stood tall and made the saves when they counted, including two huge stops on Marian Gaborik and Rick Nash in the shootout.

It was a good way for the Islanders to end the losing streak, and as Frans Nielsen pointed out it shows some character to come back against a good team down 2-0.

The key here will be if the Islanders can harness the momentum into something or if they go back to some bad habits Saturday when they play the Devils for the fourth time this season. This win may not mean a thing if they can't build upon it. But if they can harness this character and tighten up as they did for much of the game here, then they can pull out some victories more often than not.

- Chris

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