Sure the Islanders were playing an afternoon game. They were also facing a team in the Ottawa Senators who were playing the second of back-to-back games. Neither were good omens for the Isles. Nor was the fact that the Islanders brought neither their "A" game or a 100% healthy John Tavares to the afternoon matchup with the Sens.
Unlike other games this year when the Islanders would succumb to these conditions, today we saw an Isles team that refused to give up, even when they surrendered a couple of deflating goals that allowed Ottawa to even the score in the second and third periods.
The game started out like everyone expected. The Islanders were less than spectacular, but decent enough through the first 10 minutes to keep the game scoreless. The Senators looked like a team that had remained in Philadelphia, or at the very least had hit the snooze button a few times in their hotel rooms this morning.
The Islanders got on the board first, about half way through the first period. Mark Streit started what became a textbook 3 man rush, ending in a nice give and go from Matt Moulson to Brad Boyes for the Islanders first goal. It was Boyes' first goal in 8 games, dating back to the team's Valentines Day victory over the Rangers.
The second period was another typical Islanders middle frame. The team played well for the first 8 minutes of the period, but then one miscue turned the tide in the opposite direction.
Evgeni Nabokov played the puck into the corner but it was intercepted by Chris Neil. His pass was deflected by Travis Hamonic, landing on the tape of Mika Zibanejad's stick, who beat Nabokov with a wrister to tie the game at 1.
The game came to a standstill after that. The Islanders had trouble getting through the neutral zone and Ottawa couldn't get another past Nabokov. Each team failed to score on two power plays apiece, and the game looked destined for overtime.
But late in the third, as David Ullstrom and Marty Reasoner battled along the boards in the Ottawa zone, the puck found its way to a streaking Michael Grabner who had just come off the bench. Grabner rifled it past Robin Lehner, giving the Islanders a 2-1 lead.
Unfortunately these are the Islanders and giving the opposition 149 seconds to tie the score is plenty. After Kyle Okposo took a questionable, but "shouldn't have been in that situation" penalty, Patrick Wiercioch scored his first NHL goal on the power play to tie the game at 2.
The game would go into overtime, and the Islanders controlled most of the play. They drew a penalty with 4 seconds left in the extra frame, but only had time for a couple quick shot attempts and the game went to a shootout.
In the shootout, Frans Nielsen did his usual leading off, and kept the Danish Backhand of Judgement in storage for one more game. He instead used the Danish Forehand of Finality (or whatever you kids are calling it these days) to put the Isles on the board.
After two big saves by Nabokov, an ill, but still better than most, John Tavares pulled out a move straight from pond hockey, beating Lehner and finishing off an Islanders victory.
This was a game a lot of fans would be used to seeing the Islanders lose. Even after they blew the 2-1 lead, the team kept fighting and showed us something we need to see out of them on a consistent basis. Hopefully, this victory was a start.