In the their last three games, the New York Islanders seemed to be struggling. They had trouble closing teams out and came up short of playing a full 60 minutes in a hockey game. They had trouble holding onto leads, sometimes even seeming to dig themselves into holes. Last night, the Islanders broke out of this three game slump and in a big way. The Edmonton Oilers were in town, the first time they had made the trip to Long Island since December 31, 2011. Much like the last trip, the Islanders came away with the win, this time by a 3-2 score.
Leading the charge for the Islanders last night were two of their leaders, John Tavares and Kyle Okposo, both of whom had multi-point games. When the first frame ended, the Islanders found themselves down a goal, thanks to a pair of goals just eight seconds apart from Taylor Hall of the Oilers. That didn’t stop the Islanders who have played from behind in the past.
The Islanders got the score even early in the second period with a power play goal from Okposo, as he ripped a shot over the shoulder of Oilers goalie Devan Dubnyk. The goal was set up by Matt Moulson and Tavares, on a brilliant passing play that left Okposo open in front. And Tavares and Okposo weren’t done yet. Late in the second, Okposo grabbed a pass from Michael Grabner, charged into the Oilers’ end, then fed Tavares in the slot who wired a shot top shelf over the glove of Dubnyk to give the Islanders a 3-2 lead.
In their last outing at home, the Islanders weren’t able to hold a lead in the third period. Thanks to successful penalty killing and big saves from Evgeni Nabokov, the Islanders were able to hold the lead and come away with the victory this time. Nabokov made 27 saves in the win, including some big glove saves against a pressing Oilers power play which went 0-for-3 in the game.
Tavares was asked after the game how it felt to come away with this win. “It was good to see us come away with a pretty complete game in terms of the way we have to play and how hard we have to play,” Tavares said. “Obviously we had a couple letdowns with their goals but we responded well.”
The Islanders never took their foot off the gas pedal against the Oilers, which is something that had let them down a few times early this year. The Islanders out-shot the Oilers 40-29, topping the 40-shot plateau for the second consecutive game. So that right there tells me that the switching up of the lines done by the coaching staff has been the kick in the pants the Islanders have needed. The offensive production has been there since switching up the lines.
Let’s also not forget that Tavares has started to really heat up. Tavares has points in six consecutive games (four goals, five assists), including three multi-point efforts. So he is really starting to lead by example on the ice, a big reason why he was named captain before the start of the season.
With the victory, the Islanders improved to 3-2-2 overall and extended their streak of earning a point in every home game this season (2-0-2).