Once again, the Islanders showed that they should be a pretty good team next season in a spirited 6-2 win over their rival New York Rangers last night at Nassau Coliseum.
Despite mounting injuries and a defensive group made up of mostly Bridgeport Sound Tigers – the Islanders defense held the Rangers at one goal for the better part of two and a half periods. What’s more, missing two important penalty killers (Grabner out his second game due to the birth of his first child and Nielsen suffering a head injury in the second period) – the Islanders PK was outstanding. I’m sure Rangers head coach John Tortorella will have PLENTY of tape to go over, having gone 0/7 with the man advantage, including TWO five on three opportunities.
I mentioned that the Islanders were sporting some defensive injuries, but they also suffered TWO more last night – Ty Wishart suffered a shoulder injury and Jack Hillen suffered an upper body injury as well. It got so bad, the Islanders were forced to play Okposo on defense for a shift.
Let’s take a look at just how spectacular the Islanders defense was last night:
One of the rare veterans in the lineup last night, Radek Martinek had a great game. He was credited with three hits, three take aways, had a goal, an assist and finished with a +1 with 22:49 minutes of ice time. When Martinek uses his shot from the point, great things happen. His goal, a blast from the blueline off a slick Parenteau pass, beat Lundqvist over his glove. He would add an assist, with a similar play, this time deflected by Joensuu in front.
I asked Martinek after the game if the coaching staff wants him to use that great shot of his more – he told me they [the coaches] have wanted him to shoot more all season, he knows he has a good shot and good things happen when he does – he just doesn’t often think shot first.
I wasn’t the only one to notice what happens when Martinek uses that shot – Head Coach Jack Capuano talked about it during his press conference when he said “When Marty uses his shot like tonight, he gives us a chance to win hockey games”.
Young Travis Hamonic continues his strong play and what has become a Cinderella season for him – never expecting to remain with the Islanders for the full season. Last night Hamonic had a team high 24:52 minutes of ice time, tallied an assist on the game tying goal, three hits, two blocked shots and get this – a +4 on the night.
Jack Hillen is another player that has come back from a rough start – he was good offensively last night, jumping in the rush and making smart passes, stood up for his team in his fight with Dubinsky, earned an assist with his cross ice feed to Martinek’s tipped shot by Joensuu, had 22:13 minutes of ice time (that was limited by his late injury), and finished with a +2 on the night. Hillen also lead the team in hits last night with four.
Quietly however, Dylan Reese made the most of his 16:33 minutes of play, unless you count his fight with Fedotenko late in the game of course. Reese would finish the game with THREE assists, and a +3 rating. He’s one of those steady players that you often don’t really notice on the back end, which is never a bad thing.
Mark Katic finished the night -1 and with 19 minutes of ice time, and Ty Wishart was playing well – until a shoulder injury would finish him for the night, having only played 12 minutes.
The forwards were equally impressive, Tavares had two assists and was +4, Comeau finished with a goal and was +3, Joensuu FINALLY used his size in front of the net on his deflection and was +1 with 11:37 minutes of ice time, Moulson had a goal (his 31st) and an assist and would finish +3, Parenteau would also notch a goal (his 19th) and assist (has now reached 50 points) and would wind up +4 on the night. The most surprising goal of the night? Trevor Gillies netting his second of the season and second career goal on a nice deflection of a Reese point shot.
Al Montoya played another solid game, making 25 saves on 27 shots. He was great positionally, gave the Rangers very little to shoot at and controlled his rebounds well. Considering the defense that was in front of him, the Islanders really supported Montoya last night – and gave him his first win over the club that drafted him.
The fight card was chock-full of action last night:
Hillen fought Dubinsky
Avery got clobbered and bloodied by Haley
Prust fought an injured Konopka
Fedotenko fought Reese
But that wasn’t all, there were plenty of hits, pushing, shoving and just outright old school hockey throughout the game. It’s great to see this team stand up for each other, especially when Nielsen was hit from behind by Gaborik in the second period.
In a game with nothing to lose, the Islanders played great and really took it to their rival. They also made it that much harder for the Rangers, who are barely staying in the playoff picture.
They can do even more damage against the Hurricanes this weekend – should be interesting.
In closing, I doubt the league will – but I hope they look into the hit on Nielsen. But we know how that goes.