14 December 2011
By Daniel Friedman
Last night's game in Montreal was one the New York Islanders will wish
to soon forget.
The Canadiens were able to grab the two points by defeating the Isles
5-3 at the Bell Centre. Don't let the (relatively) close score fool
you: This was a mismatch from the opening face-off, and though the
Isles would eventually wake up, it'd just be too little, too late.
New York got off to a solid start and even notched the first goal in
this contest, a Matt Moulson tally off a gorgeous feed from, who else,
P.A. Parenteau, giving the Islanders a 1-0 lead. It was, however,
short-lived. Just 1:25 later, Andrei Kostitsyn chipped and chased the
puck, beating the Isles' defense and then their goaltender, Al
Montoya, to tie the game at one apiece. Not long after their first
marker, the Habs would get a second. This time it was Mathieu Darche,
who's weak slap shot somehow sneaked through Montoya's pads and into
the back of the net, putting Montreal ahead 2-1.
There was no scoring in the middle frame, but plenty of it in the
third. P.K. Subban, David Desharnais and Erik Cole combined for a
dizzying tic-tac-toe powerplay goal, with the latter finishing off the
play. At that point, the Habs were up by two and appeared to be in
command of this hockey game.
Fortunately, that notion didn't sit too well with Josh Bailey and John
Tavares. Both forwards scored a little over six minutes apart, through
hard work and patience with the puck, and just like that, the
Islanders had knotted things up.
But it was the Habs who would get the last laugh, as ex-Islander
Petteri Nokelainen's slapper got past everyone, including the
goaltender, to regain the lead for Montreal. It was just the second
goal of the season for Nokelainen and a big one at that. The Isles
would get a few more quality scoring chances but could not convert.
Hal Gill sealed the deal with an empty-net goal, his first of the
felt there were some bright spots too.
I'm going to start with P.A. Parenteau, who racked up a pair of
assists and now has 24 points in 28 games (and eight in the last six
contests). I'm not sure how many people realize that P.A.'s on pace
for 69 of 'em by season's end, but that's pretty darn impressive if
you ask me. I also liked the way Josh Bailey looked out there; he's
playing with more confidence these days and it's showing. Bailey was
strong at both ends of the rink, especially on the penalty kill, and
he was rewarded for his all-around effort with a goal. I also can't
complain much about Matt Moulson (who scored again), John Tavares,
David Ullstrom or Brian Rolston.
On the defense, it was a whole different story. I'd venture to say
that, other than Travis Hamonic and Steve Staios, no one else played
particularly well last night. It all starts with the captain: Mark
Streit needs to lead by example and show the poise and control we've
come to praise him for over the last few years.
As far as Al Montoya's concerned, I felt that, while he certainly
didn't play his best game last night, it wasn't his worst either. The
guy's appeared in nine-consecutive matches and is clearly exhausted. I
was particularly impressed with the way he shrugged off that bad first
period and came out strong in the second. It's easy to make a whole
big stink about what would've been the case had Al made that save
against Darche (which gave the Habs the lead in the first place), but
don't forget: Montoya also came up huge on a number of occasions in
this hockey game. He bailed out the Isles' defense, especially on the
penalty kill, and was a big reason this game wasn't a landslide.
Make no mistake, this is a young hockey club and they're going to make
quite a few, it's just part of the learning curve. Regardless, Michael
Grabner has to know better than that. Of anyone on the ice, Grabner's
the last player I'd ever expect to not get back to the bench fast
enough. After all, he's only one of the quickest skaters in the NHL.
Taking a penalty for having too many men on the ice is one of the
dumbest things you can do in a game, because line changes are such a
basic part of hockey and, certainly at this level, players should be
aware of both the importance and simplicity of understanding when to
stay on the ice and when to come off.
The Islanders did not lose last night because of Al Montoya. They lost
because, for the most part, they were watching the play instead of
getting involved, weren't finishing their checks, weren't hustling and
weren't winning battles for loose pucks. New York was out-skated and
out-worked, plain and famous people simple. Terry Sawchuk could've been in net for
the Isles and they still wouldn't have deserved, nor would they likely
have manufactured, a "W."
I'm sure Jack Capuano was none too pleased with his team's
performance, and hopefully he can light another fire under these guys.
The New York Islanders need to turn things around...fast.
Comments are welcome
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