Your New York Islanders were back in action at the NVMC tonight against the red-hot Maple Leafs. Ryan Strome, Anders Lee and Mike Halmo (1st NHL game) are in the line up with Tavares, Nielsen on IR and Martin, Carkner & Martinek scratched for the Isles. Points are huge, but how the team responds to their current situation is bigger. Gut check incoming.
Forwards: Vanek-Nelson-Okposo; Grabner-Bailey-Clutterbuck; Lee-Strome-McDonald; Boulton-Cizikas-Halmo.
D-Pairings: de Haan-Hamonic; Strait-MacDonald; Hickey-Visnovsky.
Evgeni Nabokov gets the start and Kevin Poulin is on the bench.
Shortly after Toronto took a 2-0 lead, Michael Grabner (Cizikas) scored two SHG's in under a minute to give the Isles a 2-1 lead. Eric Hornick tells us that the last Islanders player w 2 SH goals in game: Mike Sillinger 1/22/08; Ziggy Palffy last w 2 on one PP 4/17/99. Isles taking the physicality to the Maple Leafs. Mike Halmo and Anders Lee are really making an impact by playing the body on the fore-check while Eric Boulton is making some noise while moving the puck and throwing fists to defend the honor of the crest.
The Isles would continue to stir in the second period by attacking the Toronto net, blocking shots and throwing hits, but fail to score. Evgeni Nabokov responds to Toronto's push by making some huge saves in the second period including a sick stop on Kessel. Per Christian Arnold, "Through two periods Halmo has seen 6:03 of playing time; Strome has seen 9:04; Lee has seen 8:46." Isles are 0 for 3 on PP so far, but 4 for 4 on PK.
Isles take a slim 1 goal lead into the third period, but continue to play aggressively and with an edge, but cat find the back of the net. A loose puck is knocked in from a deflection off the post. Matt Saidman declares, " The puck was knocked down and forward by JVR's glove, touched next by Ranger in the crease. 100% should have been blown for hand-pass." Regardless, its a 2-2 game, midway through the third period. Officials miss a hooking call in the Isles zone, Phanueff scores as a result to give Toronto a 3-2 lead. Isles apply pressure and get rewarded with a PP. Anders Lee (Bailey & de Haan) sweeps a loose puck in for a PPG and the tie, game even at 3-3. A minute later, the Leafs score on a rush to make it 4-3 with 6:06 remaining. Isles were caught out of position on defense. Isles apply more pressure and Anders Lee (Strome & Hamonic) banks the puck in off Reimer, game tied at 4-4. Isles will get a point and the game will go to O.T. Isles outshot Toronto 31-22 after three periods.
Maple Leafs with sloppy play in their own zone, turn over the puck to a waiting Visnovsky in the slot who puts it behind Reimer with a sweet one timer. Isles win 5-4 in O.T. Isles led 35-22 in shots after O.T. Evgeni Nabokov finishes the game going 18 for 22 with a .818Sv%.
So, its safe to say Michael Grabner brought back some Olympic fire and helped the Isles get a win tonight. The BST call ups of Strome, Lee and Halmo were awesome in tonight's game as well. These were the guys I felt were most likely to get the call from the front office, they were chosen and showed why they were selected by this organization. Character and skill. Experience and fine-tuning will come. Strome continued where he left off before the Olympic break and contributed to a good team win, including an assist tonight. Lee and Halmo were throwing bodies and Lee scored two big goals. That's 4 pts in 3 career NHL games for Lee. Isles rallied and fought hard for this win without John Tavares. Also, the Isles 6 game home losing streak is over.
Its a good start for the Isles. Lets see where they can get in the final 22 games.