The much maligned New York Islanders arrived at the Bell Centre with little more than their fading memories of a once proud and successful expansion franchise. The red hot first place Montreal Canadiens had won five in a row, while once again, it is not looking good for the soon to be Brooklyners, who last finished in first place within their division while Ronald Reagan was in office.
Unlike Tuesday’s game against the New York Rangers, it took the Canadiens much less time to get a shot on goal versus the Islanders. It also took the Habs a lot less time to get on the scoreboard. Just 49 seconds into the game, Montreal forward Travis Moen fired the puck past Islanders goalie Evgeni Nabokov on a set up by Colby Armstrong for a 1-0 lead.
Just over eleven minutes into the period, the Canadiens added to their lead with a power play goal by an unmarked Max Pacioretty from the slot, which was assisted by David Desharnais and P.K. Subban. Montreal took advantage of some disorganized penalty killing by the Isles, who had no defenders on the right side of the ice.
Although the flat-lining Islanders did show some life on a power play in the waning seconds of the opening period, the first period would end with the Canadiens dominating the visitors with a 2-0 lead. The Canadiens fourteen shots compared to the Islanders three shots in the first stanza was a rather clear indication of how one-sided the game had been up until that point.
The second period would begin for the Islanders the same as the first period did for the Canadiens. Just 34 seconds in, Matt Moulson put the Isles on the scoreboard with a power play goal. Moulson deflected a slapshot from the right point by Mark Streit past Carey Price, cutting the deficit to one. Even though they began the game in a dismal fashion, the Islanders were within striking distance just like that.
With about 14 minutes remaining in the second period, the Isles would get a break when Brandon Prust was slashed down to the ice from behind on what appeared to be a clear breakaway. Prust lost his footing and slid into Nabokov, causing the goal to be dislodged. There would be no penalty shot and no penalty call, which would cause Habs coach Michel Therrien to blow a gasket or two.
Prust’s hard aggressive play to the net appeared to ignite the Habs, as Nabokov was called on to make two excellent saves from point blank. The Canadiens would continue to attack the defensively inept Islanders, who seemed back on their heels for much of the first two periods.
At 8:30 of the second period, Pacioretty would score his second goal of the game on a quick wrist shot past Nabokov, helping the Canadiens to regain their two goal advantage, 3-1. The goal was set up on a sharp looking feed in front of the net from the boards behind the goal line by Desharnais.
The pesky Islanders would not go away easily, as they had in their 7-0 home blowout loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Monday. At 16:57 of the second period, Moulson would match Pacioretty and score his second goal of the game. Moulson’s second power play goal of the game was set up on a slick pass by John Taveras from behind the Habs net. Price had no chance to go out and challenge Moulson’s quick snap shot from the slot. Entering the third period trailing 3-2 and being outshot 28-15, the Islanders were fortunate to remain in the game.
About two minutes into the final period, Canadiens Ryan White was whistled for goaltender interference when he crashed into Nabokov, who was shaken up a bit on the play. White appeared to have been pushed into the Isles goalie, but did not appear to make much of an effort to avoid contact with Nabokov. After the teams traded two additional penalties, the Habs were able to successfully kill off the Islanders power play with disciplined defensive play.
Approximately midway through the third period, Franz Nielsen scored the equalizer on a wrist shot past Price from the high slot. Nielsen was set up by Josh Bailey on a neat cross ice pass from the right point. Nielsen had initiated the rush by making a successful backcheck deep in the Isles zone.
The Canadiens would get two power play opportunities in the last seven minutes, but were not able to convert and the game would go into overtime tied 3-3. Pacioretty blew a chance for a late game winner when he missed a wide open cage and shot the puck directly at an out of position Nabokov.
The Habs conservative puck dumping/icing strategy permitted them to have only four shots on goal in the third period, after they had twenty-eight shots in the first two periods. Ultimately, it was the Habs playing not to lose mentality which would allow the Islanders back into the game.
In the overtime, Islanders rookie Thomas Hickey tapped in the winner past Price on a play which was kept alive on an excellent second effort by a diving Taveras. Hickey’s goal was the first of his NHL career, obviously making it a very memorable one for him.
The loss to the Isles ended the Canadiens five game winning streak. For the third straight game, Habs rookie Brendan Gallagher sat out due to a concussion. Pacioretty has all his four goals on the season in the last three games. Prust and Joe Finley traded blows after Prust stood up for teammate Lars Eller. Taveras returned to action in overtime after he was slashed on the arm by Alexei Emelin late in the game with no penalty being called.
The Canadiens welcome the struggling New York Rangers to the Bell Centre on Saturday night.