After only the fifth 2-0 start in franchise history the Islanders crossed the East River to take on their mortal enemy, the New York Rangers. A strong finish to another awkwardly opening game gave the Islanders a 3-0 record with a 6-3 in Madison Square Garden.
Jaroslav Halak got the start following a mediocre but winning start in Carolina.
First period drama continued as Casey Cizikas took a fairly blatant and brutal keening penalty on Kevin Klein, but unlike the last two nights they were able to dodge a bullet. While the special teams play was generally better, Rick Nash was allowed to power in on Halak and score a very weak goal. The goal was Nash’s 5th to start the season.
While the penalty kill was working the power play went clicking along with Johhn Boychuk’s second power play goal of the year. He continues to bring offense to an Islanders blue line that needed an injection of, well, everything. As many proclaimed he was being misused in Boston he is working very well with his new team and defense partner Nick Leddy.
Speaking of the power play, its still not perfect. For every quality shot the Islanders can get off they dawdle or panic away three others. The umbrella attack is not sustainable as the PK can pin the forwards to the boards, and make the defensemen tiptoe the blue line. Rarely this night were there two Islanders in front of Lundqvist. A few shorthanded situations came through for the Rangers, thankfully negated by Halak. This has been going on for years (mostly Capuano but dating back to Gordon) and it is the systematic Achilles of this team.
For the times the penalty kill was good, it was merely doing its job. The Rangers power play had out shot the Islanders without the inclusion of even strength shots. Or the few shorthanded opportunities.
Once again, John Tavares picked the right time to lift his team, this time a beautiful shot past Lindqvist. Nikolai Kulemin continues to excel in the defensive zone. His PK skills are coming in handy more often than not, and more often than truly needed. But necessary nonetheless.
Early in the third period Kyle Okposo’s 100th NHL goal gave the Isles their first lead of the game, capitalizing on a John Tavares takeaway and then creating his own turnover. But what were timely markers by the top line became open cracks in the dam. Brock Nelson added to his NHL points lead with his fourth of the year. Ryan Strome put in his first on a loopy deflection off Kevin Klein.
Nick Leddy, having a quiet but effective game, hammered another past Lundqvist. Now we can consider the dam broken.
The burst of offense cannot fully mask the fact that the Isles were out shot by nearly a 2/1 (43/27) margin. Shot quality, obviously high, will not maintain when the total number of shots remains low. Over time, this will cripple any team.
A strong finish to a slowly explosive game. The special teams flaws still stand out, and success is coming in spite of themselves sometimes, but the transformation of the offense is leading the way.