Head Coach Jack Capuno announced Kyle Okposo (44 pts in 46 games) will be out 6-8 weeks with an upper-body injury. That’s bad news for the Islanders who welcome their arch rival New York Rangers into the NVMC for an essential 4 point game in a tightly contested Metro division. Mikhail Grabovski is back from injury and will get another chance to find his game paired with JT & JB on the top line. Cal Clutterbuck is wearing Okposo’s A for tonight’s post-blizzard, 12th sell out of the season and 8th of their last 9.
Forwards: Bailey-Tavares-Grabovski, Lee-Nielsen-Strome, Grabner-Nelson-Kulemin, Martin-Cizikas-Clutterbuck.
Defensive Pairings: Leddy-Boychuk, de Haan-Hamonic, Hickey-Strait.
Jaroslav Halak gets the start with Chad Johnson backing up.
In the first period, The Isles came out skating & generated several good chances, including a couple off Rangers turnovers. Halak starting strong as well, making several key saves. It’s been another battle of goaltenders tonight, hopefully it ends like last game against the Rangers. Nick Leddy with a gorgeous feed to Frans Nielsen, but he can’t finish. Isles doing a good job in their own zone on defense, blocking a lot of shots. Mikhail Grabovski tips in a nice pass from the front of the net from Bailey & Boychuk on a play started by John Tavares. 1-0 Islanders. Isles finish with a 17-10 shots advantage. Great opening period by the home team.
Kreider breaks in on a scoring attempt, barreling into the net, colliding with Halak hard, pressing the scoring chance. IMO, very suspect. Isles to the PP at the start of the second, but fail to score. Cizikas puts the puck on net & Matt Martin (Clutterbuck & Cizikas) gives the Islanders a 2-0 lead. Josh Bailey has an assist tonight and has points in four straight games. Kulemin gets called for tripping, Isles kill the penalty. With Lundqvist down, Ryan Strome appears to put one in, but Official says it went off the crossbar. Replay backs up the call. Thomas Hickey continues to play a quietly effective game for the Islanders again tonight. Cal Clutterbuck goes off for interference with :47 remaining. Shots even at 28 each. That was a huge period for Jaro Halak.
Isles come out with aggressive play to finish off the Rangers man advantage at the start of the third period. Capuano calls a time out around at 14:11 of the third. Ed Mangano is interviewed by Shannon Hogan during the game. So awkward. Ryan Strome (Nielsen & de Haan) banks one off McDonagh, 3-0 Islanders. Nick Leddy springs Matt Martin who just can’t gather in the puck on a breakaway. Glass takes down Michael Grabner into the boards, Isles to the PP. With 1:20 remaining, Nash slashes Frans Nielsen, 5 on 3. John Tavares squeezes it past Lundqvist, 4-0 Islanders. Isles have PP time remaining, 4 on 3. Glass gives Matt Martin a vicious face rub while he is restrained by the Officials, Martin drops the gloves. Glass & Martin head to the locker rooms. Somehow, the teams are 4 on 4 for :17. Rangers to the PP. Haglin ruins the shutout with 8.1 seconds remaining, 4-1 Islanders. Halak is upset. Time expires, Isles win 4-1 and salute the fans with another center ice Yes! chant.
Isles are 3-0 vs Rangers this year, 16-2 vs the Metro and 10-0 at the NVMC. Rangers had a 13-10 edge in shots for the period while the Islanders finish with a 41-38 advantage. They were 1/3 on the PP and 2/2 on the PK. Two impressive stars included a 38-24 edge in face offs and an impressive 25-8 advantage in blocked shots. Tavares, Halak & Martin were the three stars of the game.
Jaroslav Halak (40/41 with a .976 Sv%) was the story again for the Islanders. For the third game against the Rangers, he outlasted and out dueled Henrik Lundqvist. He and John Tavares took momentum from their All-Star appearances and kept them going tonight . Mikhail Grabovski was good throughout and even got a goal to start the scoring for the Isles. Ryan Strome had a strong effort, playing a good two way game. The fourth line (Or, MC2 per Butch Goring) was awesome and brought some grit when it was needed most. Matt Martin had a goal and came close a couple of other times as well. Man, has his play gotten better towards the midpoint of the season. Loved the jump in Michael Grabner’s game as well. He generated some offensive chances and drew penalties. Thomas Hickey had another great outing on the blue line along with Johnny Boychuk who was a shot blocking machine.
Another great statement game by your Islanders coming out of the break. They should have no problem staying motivated for Boston. With a win tonight and a TBL loss, the Isles assume 1st place in the east. And in case it wasn’t clear to you yet, they are for real and they show no signs of resting on their laurels.
Let’s see where this thing goes. They are playing like a champion.
Kyle Okposo (Jan. 19) and Eric Boulton (Jan. 17) have been retroactively placed on the team's IR list.
Isles stats coming into tonight:
1st Period: +7
2nd Period: +1
3rd Period: +10 (+5 excluding EN)
Overtime Goals: +3
NBCSN has added an Isles-Canadiens game on 3/14 to their schedule
The Hockey News reported that legendary Islander Gillies wants another one. “The last thing on my hockey bucket list is to drink from the Stanley Cup one more time.”