February 18, 2015

Isles Rebound with 4-1 Win Over Canes

After suffering their disappointing loss on Monday night against the Rangers, the Islanders had to be sure they did not suffer a major setback against the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday night. This was a dangerous game because it was going to have a much different feel than the day before, and not to mention was on the road.

While it wasn't the prettiest of games for the Isles they still won pretty decisively with a 4-1 score over the Hurricanes. Or at least the score might appear decisive, but anyone who watched the game can clearly tell you otherwise.

In fact I think I'd have to attribute a lot of this victory to Chad Johnson, who continued his run of good play by making 37 saves against the Canes. While none of the saves had high degrees of difficultly he did make a few nice ones and effectively kept the rebounds out of areas of trouble which was important against a team that has won some solid games recently and found ways to put up some high goal totals. It's all you can ask from the back-up goaltender.

The Isles finally gave Johnson some offensive support which is more than we can say from the games in Detroit and Boston (although that wasn't their fault). Anders Lee, Brock Nelson, Michael Grabner and John Tavares all tallied.

Grabner was in his first game back off of the IR and looked excellent. He brought the speed that we all know and love, and it was much more noticeable than when he was even healthy before his IR stint. Maybe this latest bit of rest can truly get him going because the club will need him, and he had a very active 12+ minutes. He did a good job on the penalty kill, which needless to say is something the Isles need.

Lee and Nelson have continued to play in front of the net, but each have had completely different stories over the past several games. Lee has been able to find the back of the net in several different ways while Nelson has had more of a rough go at it. On the powerplay the Isles had some excellent movement, especially from Frans Nielsen, and Lee once again was in perfect position to score a goal in the crease area.

Nelson meanwhile scored one of the strangest goals you could but he'll take it. Colin McDonald, complete with his renewed life, was off to the side pushing and shoving with a Canes player as Matt Martin found a wide open Nelson for a quick goal that just ticked off of Anton Khudobin. Nelson's reaction was priceless after, showing virtually no emotion but a smug "about time" look. I do not think he's played badly during his stretch, but definitely needed to get that monkey off of his back. We'll see how he continues to respond with that out of the way.

Along with the renewed chance for McDonald comes a new position, center. With Grabner coming off of IR Casey Cizikas went on and McDonald took a 3rd line spot. It's not the most ideal situation right now but he continued to show solid play. As good as Cizikas has been this year his faceoff skills still need work not to mention some of the work in the defensive zone, as I pointed out yesterday. In fairness he has been playing hurt and has been wearing a boot on his foot for a while now, so this could be a potential explanation.

The Isles did fall into some lapses and allowed the Canes to press. After they got their goal from Jiri Tlusty the Canes were pouring on the shots and using the big bodies of Eric and Jordan Staal were creating all sorts of havoc for Johnson. It seemed like only a matter of time before we would see a one goal game with several minutes left to play, but all Tavares needed was one second to get the puck from behind the net and rifle it down the ice. Here we all were thinking that was a good move so that Jack Capuano could use his time out and get everyone's head straight. No one - not even Butch Goring or Howie Rose - saw that Carolina's net was empty, except for those in attendance perhaps. In what seemed like the only example in recent memory of an Islander forward clearing a puck out of trouble, Tavares hit a bulls eye on the empty net to seal the game and kill any momentum that Carolina was in the process of gaining.

For a team struggling overall as much as Carolina has this season, giving up 38 shots to them (31 in the 2nd and 3rd frames) is not ideal. But the Isles got some timely goals and solid goaltending and that is what will win games for good teams more often than not. You happily take the result, appreciate it for what it was in a very emotionless regular season game with a very poor crowd showing (but lots of Isles fans) and get ready to play the leagues best back home on Thursday night when Peter Laviolette and the Nashville Predators come to town.

- Chris

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