For the second straight night, the New York Islanders played a sloppy hockey game. First it was a rough night against the Chicago Blackhawks, then last night, it was almost much of the same story against the Nashville Predators. But it wasn’t just the goal tending that was a problem against the Predators, it was a total team effort.
Since the Islanders had played the night before in Chicago, some might have thought that fatigue would have played a factor, but head coach Jack Capuano quickly shot down that idea. “We didn’t get off to the start that we wanted,” Capuano said. “We regrouped after the first, and I thought we picked our game up. We eliminated our turnovers, we started to play high-percentage, we started to do a lot of good things and got ourselves back in the game. But they got a big goal with under a minute left in the second period.”
Both teams came out a little flat at the start of the contest, with Nashville outshooting the 9-4, so it looked like a flat start for the Islanders. When the second period got underway, both teams seemed to find their legs. Nashville got the scoring started, with Seth Jones picking up his first NHL goal, a powerplay marker. That seemed to be an unusual trend for the Islanders, as it seemed they gave up a lot of first NHL goals during the course of last season. That Jones goal seemed to be the spark the Islanders needed to get going; well, that and coach Capuano changing up the line combinations to try and spark something. It worked. Frans Neilsen got the game tied, his second of the season, coming off a nice passing play. Then, it went to another beautiful passing play, with John Tavares finishing off a great pass from Kyle Okposo. For Okposo, he picked up the primary assist on both Islanders goals, which shows me that he is still heating up, and that last years late success was no fluke.
Nashville responded with goals from Patric Hornqvist and Ryan Ellis to take the lead, and hold onto it, for the win. Hornqvist tied it late in the second, and Ellis gave them the lead for good early in the third.
On the tying goal, netminder Evgeni Nabokov really would have wanted that one back. It was a soft shot by Hornqvist, a shot that Nabokov really should have had and made the save on. He played pretty well, don’t get me wrong, but there were some shots Nabokov could have handled better. Nabokov made 28 saves on 31 shots, but could have played just a little better.
With the exception of the 10 minute stretch where the Islanders scored the two goals, they played a little flat, as far as I could tell. At times, they looked slow and lagging, not having much jump or energy or life. Tavares described it best when asked about the team’s effort. “It was one of those games, especially as an offensive player, where we really didn’t feel like we had a whole lot of room,” Tavares said. “Pucks were bouncing, and we couldn’t seem to get it done when we needed to.”
The Islanders get a few days to regroup before they play host to the Buffalo Sabres at the Coliseum Tuesday night.