April 5, 2013

Isles get a Point in Washington to Move into 7th

The Islanders took their hot streak into Washington on Thursday night, with a chance to continue their march towards a playoff berth after not receiving much help on Wednesday from Pittsburgh or Montreal.

The Islanders seemed a bit looser than usual in the early going, allowing the Capitals to get several solid scoring chances, some of which left Evgeni Nabokov scrambling. All night there were several close calls, and a few fortunate deflections that went just wide of the cage helped keep Nabokov and the Isles within striking distance.

Washington wouldn't score until there were just a few ticks left on the clock in the first period, leaving the Islanders with a challenge to head into the dressing with.

The team responded well and as time went on in the second period you could tell that they were starting to play a little bit better. The physical element that was lacking in the first was beginning to return and due to that the Islanders were starting to look like they have overall in the past few games.

I'm convinced that if not for Braden Holtby, the Capitals likely would have had some issues with this game. But Holtby made some unbelievable saves, especially in the third period as his team desperate tried to protect the 1-0 lead. They would be unable to last the full 40 minutes with that lead however.

Josh Bailey did a phenomenal job on the forecheck, taking a puck in the corner behind the net before passing it in the faceoff circle to Frans Nielsen who quickly turned a cross-ice pass to Kyle Okposo for a one-time goal with about five minutes to play. Once again, the Isles were coming back in a 3rd period rather than giving goals up.

Both goalies took over the rest of the way, each making some fantastic stops. Holtby had his work cut out for him with all the Isles threw at him.

In their quest for two points the Isles ultimately fell short. But in a game like this, you take the point, shrug your shoulders and prepare for the Lightning.

It seems as though in these recent games, the refs have been putting away their whistles. John Tavares was mugged a number of times with nothing called. Meanwhile there were plenty of other questionable calls on both sides that were ignored, especially in the third period.

The Islanders did a very good job of letting Nabokov see everything thrown his way, and were excellent in their coverage of the Caps top players. The result was just slightly different than it was just over a week ago.

You can see that this team is playing with a great deal of intensity, feeding off of the pressure they are under. Their reactions to key moments of the game tell you everything you need to know. They'll need the same kind of feeling for Saturday's game and cannot get off to a slow or sluggish start as they did here. Tampa is playing the role of spoiler, armed with another phenomenal young goalie talent in Ben Bishop. Get on them early and often.

- Chris

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