Stomp the Yard: Isles Crumple Leafs in Their Road Opener

Before tonight, Islanders fans had to go two whole days without seeing an Isles game! What a long layoff! Doesn’t the NHL know we just went through a lockout? How long do they want to keep our hockey team away from us?

Anyways, it was great to be watching Isles hockey tonight, as our favorite team went to Toronto for their first road game of the 2013 season. The Islanders came into the game at 1-1-0-0. The Maple Leafs came into the matchup at 2-1-0-0. Sadly, I was jealous that they were able to play an extra game already.

Well, Isles fans. It feels great to win when the team’s on the road, and the Islanders left all of their fans (except for the guy next to me at Miller’s for some reason) happy tonight. I said the Islanders offense opened up against the Lightning on Monday, but I can really say the Islanders offense woke up tonight, scoring seven goals for their first time since the 2010-11 season.

Although the game on Monday afternoon gave Isles fans the jitters, tonight’s game left that Islanders’ fans with a very satisfying victory.
I guess we will start with the beginning of this one. Evgeni Nabokov got the start for the Islanders for the third game in a row. The game didn’t exactly start off on the right foot for the Islanders, as Toronto’s Carl Gunnarsson gave the Maple Leafs their first lead only 2:12 into the game. A slap-shot beat Nabokov for a goal that Nabby definitely wanted back.

Fortunately, Matt Moulson responded for the Islanders, scoring his first goal of the game a little bit over 6 minutes later. He scored in typical Moulson-fashion, but on a broken play off a Toronto face-off win. Ben Scrivens bobbled the puck off the draw, which found Moulson, who buried the puck in front of the net.

The Islanders went on to allow two more goals in the first, both which demonstrated Nabokov’s shakiness to begin the game. Kadri scored on a weird bounce, and Grabovski wristed a shot from the top circle to beat Nabby on his glove side. Islanders fans were actually calling to throw in DiPietro. It looked like it was going to be a long night for Nabby and the Islanders.

Thankfully, the Islanders killed off a 5-on-3 to end the period, so the Islanders had some momentum going into the second.

The Isles would get their first power-play of the game 10:30 into the second period. Towards the end of the man-advantage, Mark Streit would pull the Islanders within one after receiving a nice pass from Brad Boyes in the slot. Brad Boyes tied the game less than two minutes later, deflecting a Frans Nielsen feed to the front of the net past Toronto’s goaltender.

Momentum completely shifted in the Isles favor, as the game was tied at 3 as the second period ended.

The question going through the heads of all Islanders fans: Would the Isles be able to sustain pressure on the Maple Leafs?

Less than four minutes into the period, the Islanders would take their first lead of the game as Michael Grabner would score a goal from the top of the right circle. It was a soft goal, but it put the Islanders ahead for good.

Keith Aucoin, who was waived by the Maple Leafs one week ago, would score to increase the Islanders lead by two. Aucoin’s goal would be his first as an Islander, with assists from David Ullstrom and Colin McDonald. The assist was McDonald’s first point as an Islander.

Matt Moulson, and Michael Grabner would each tally goals in the third to cap off scoring for the New York Islanders.

A few observations from the Islanders 7-4 win over the Maple Leafs:

-The Islanders killed off the five penalties they faced, pushing them to 10/10 on the season. Yes. Through 3 games, the Islanders penalty-kill is at 100%.

-John Tavares added another two assists.

-According to Eric Hornick, this was the Islanders first road win after trailing by two since 2/13/11 against the Sabres. For those who remember, this was the first game after “Fight Night” with the Penguins. The Isles won 7-6.

-This game was also the first time they scored 6+ goals since the Buffalo game. The Isles did not score 6 goals this season.

-Brian Strait was a +3.

-Dion Phaneuf is still gutless. For some reason, Phaneuf always seems to cheapshot John Tavares and never gets called for it. Non-calls actually helped spark “Fight Night.” Luckily, the Isles now have Matt Carkner, who won’t have any of Phaneuf’s cowardly shenanigans.

-Matt Moulson loves his goals in front of the net.

-So does Brad Boyes. Brad had three points tonight.

-Michael Grabner looks like that second-line winger from 2010-11. Three goals and two assists in three games, including a three-point night tonight. Grabner scored a short-handed empty-netter to end the game. He still has his speed, and still finds ways to break up plays at the blue-line.

-The third-line of McDonald-Aucoin-Ullstrom is good. What an upgrade, so far.

-Keith Aucoin saved a goal at the goal-line, which would have made it a 6-5 game with two minutes left. That could have been disastrous. Chalk one up for Keith “Garth’s waiver-wire garbage” Aucoin.

-After  shaky start, Nabby finished with 39 saves on 43 shots. Solid. The only problem is Nabyy seems to find ways to scare fans every game. Hopefully, it’s just rust.

-Zero hits for Joe Finley tonight. With that size, he needs to be a bit more physical.

-Hamonic and MacDonald both logged over 29 minutes of ice time. They are, deservingly, our top defensive pair.

-Casey Cizikas provided plenty of energy for the Islanders. Four hits, two shots in 11:52 of ice time. I think he will be staying in the NHL.

Very encouraging win for the Islanders tonight. This team broke character in both of their wins this season. On Monday, the Islanders held on to a 3rd period lead. Tonight, they had a comeback win on the road. The team on the ice is more mature, and has more character than the team they iced last season. I’m confident in the guys on the ice for the Islanders.

The Islanders are now 2-1-0-0. In comparison, the Rangers are 1-3-0-0.

Let’s go Islanders. Game 4 in Boston on Friday.

Follow @ChrisTriants

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About the Author: Writes at Islanders Op-Timism. Islanders Season Ticket Holder who tends to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Hofstra Graduate currently working at Portnoy, Messinger, Pearl & Associates. I definitely want to end up working within the world of hockey. Blog: www.IslandersOptimism.com E-Mail: ChristopherTriantafilis@gmail.com Twitter: @ChrisTriants

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