After a gradually-not-that-sloppy season opener at Carolina, the Islanders opened the home schedule hosting Carolina. They took the home-and home-and sweep with a 4-3 win.
Chad Johnson replaced Jaroslav Halak in net, an interesting move as Halak was steady in his Islander debut despite letting in three fairly routine goals. For the Hurricanes, Anton Khudobin replaces Cam Ward in net, a move that will become more familiar for Carolina as the season progresses.
After a see saw first period rife with defensive missteps and gaps in discipline, both teams were lucky to escape tied at two.
Captain John Tavares opened the scoring on the power play converting a pass from Brock Nelson. Momentum swung wildly soon after. Travis Hamonic’s hooking minor led to Jiri Tlusty’s power play goal, but Cory Conacher took the lead back thirty seconds later off a shot in transition. Tlusty again quieted the building on another man advantage marker in the final minute. Rough period all around.
The discipline issues continued into the second though the Islanders found themselves killing off four penalties. Johnny Boychuck found Brock Nelson’s leg for Nelson’s third goal and sixth point of the year. Josh Bailey, amazingly, finsihed the period off with a slick goal off a neat pass from Frans Nielsen.
A quieter and more comfortable third period was interrupted by a poor choice of a poke check by Chad Johnson that gave Tlusty his second career hattrick.
Unlike many previous third period leads, this one held up. Chad Johnson stopped 21 of 24 shots (.875 SV%). While the win and offensive output was acceptable, that save percentage is reminiscent of Nabokov of late. As of game two the figure is not yet worrisome. Yet.
As the top two lines continue to produce, the third and fourth lines stood out tonight. Kulemin and Nielsen were defensively responsible and we’re able to light a fire under the much maligned Josh Bailey. As always the Cizikas-Martin-Clutterbuck line annoyed, fought, and badgered the Hurricanes.
Outside of the Johnson gaffe, the biggest issue the Islanders seemed to correct was transitional shots and goals against. While most metrics use shots as a pure basis for possession, the Islanders would own time of possession only to fall behind in the shot possession category and trail on the scoreboard. Many times under Capuano the Isles have maintained own zone possession only to turn over the puck for instant scoring plays. This behavior, for now, seems to have been reversed.
Tonight’s win shows this still jelling Islanders team can overcome a collection of minor mistakes and come out with a victory. But this cannot be the story of the season.
Tuesday’s game against the Rangers represents a big first test for the Islanders.