March 1, 2013

Isles Battle Back but Phaneuf, Leafs Win

The New York Islanders continued on with one of their more perplexing issues this season, losing 5-4 in overtime to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday night.

The Islanders didn't play their worst game of hockey, but there were lots of chances for the Leafs to generate and sustain some pressure, in particular during the second period. While many of the Leafs started off the season slowly, they have picked it up and those individuals are among those who stepped up in this one when given the opportunity to do so.

Nazem Kadri scored a hat trick, bringing his season total of goals up to eight. Kadri has looked really solid this season after a series of call-ups and inconsistent play caused many in Canada to wonder aloud if he was a bust. He certainly looked like the real deal on Thursday night.

It seemed like no matter what the Isles did, they just couldn't get ahead for any sustained amount of time. Some solid forechecking and saves by Evgeni Nabokov paid off when Kyle Okposo found Josh Bailey on a 2-on-1 to give the Isles the 1-0 lead early in the game, ending the slump for Bailey. After Kadri answered, the teams played even for a while until Lubomir Visnovsky scored his first as an Islander in the second period, on a beauty of a slap shot after which he pumped his fists and kissed the sky. It would be only a matter of minutes before Kadri would answer again and then the Leafs began to run away with the game in short order.

Despite hanging their heads low, the Isles were able to battle back, getting goals from Andrew MacDonald and Okposo to get the game even at four. Throughout the third period Nabokov had quite the showing. Although it wasn't as strong a performance as you'd want to see from him, he played really well at points and once again gave the Isles a chance to win overall. However, when I asked Jack Capuano his thoughts on Nabokov, he refused to comment on it, saying they have goaltending coaches who oversee that. Of course, the goaltending coaches are not available to the media but be that as it may, the head coach apparently had no opinion on his goaltending.

Nabokov admitted he wasn't screened on the final shot by Dion Phaneuf, which trickled in across the goal line to seal the victory for the Leafs in the extra frame.

Okposo had a 3 point night for the Isles. Photo by C. Hessel
The mood after was mixed, with Bailey taking some solace in the fact that the Isles were able to battle back. Okposo was glad to obviously get off of his cold streak with a three point night despite the outcome.

It's very unusual to get a game that has no penalties, but once again the Isles and Leafs skated in a contest with none. There were a few moments where the refs missed them, and near the end of the game, they completely put the whistles away in their pockets. But it was in a sense, refreshing to see the Isles have some solid moments during 5-on-5 play.

Still searching for answers on how to cure what ails them at home, the Islanders will have a few days off to figure it out before playing on Sunday afternoon. With the Ottawa Senators coming to town, this will be no easy task as that's a team that continues to roll along despite not having Erik Karlsson and Jason Spezza, among others in the line-up.

It just doesn't get any easier.

- Chris

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