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Playing the Right Way

When their maturity was put to the test, the Islanders answered the bell

Wednesday, 10.16.2013 / 4:42 PM / News
By Travis Betts
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Playing the Right Way
When their maturity was put to the test, the Islanders answered the bell
Cal Clutterbuck led all skaters with eight hits Tuesday (Photo: Getty Images).

Emotions ran high as Tuesday’s Islanders-Sabres game against Buffalo progressed, but the young, maturing Islanders sent a message.

Two-and-a-half periods worth of big hits and players on both sides getting in one extra shove following the whistle built up and boiled over at the 7:47 mark of the third period.

Sabres forward Steve Ott spent extra time holding John Tavares behind the Buffalo goal until the cavalry arrived. Kyle Okposo and Matt Moulson jumped into the scrum and by the time the dust settled, several gloves, sticks and Steve Ott’s jersey lay on the ice.

“He’s off limits,” Okposo said of the Islanders captain. “That’ll happen. When people want to take liberties with our team or him in particular, we’re going to stand up.”

Okposo and Ott received matching minors but the Sabres captain was slapped with an extra two minutes for roughing Tavares. A minute into the man advantage, the Islanders scored the go-ahead goal.

Islanders head coach Jack Capuano was pleased with the way his team stood up for each other without crossing the line and taking an extra penalty.

“Knowing that we had that one goal lead, we still wanted to play physical, we still wanted to play hard, but the guys knew discipline was a big factor,” Capuano said. “We held our discipline and we got another power play there without taking away from our game. We continued to pressure the puck and play the body.”

Playing physical without going overboard – that’s the approach the Islanders improved upon greatly throughout the 2013 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against Pittsburgh, when they found ways to get under their opponents’ skin. The maturing Islanders are finding the line and staying just on the right side of the law.

Cal Clutterbuck engaged in a number of heated moments with opposing players and posted a game-high eight hits Tuesday. The Islanders winger has experience, knowing when to back off from an opponent following a lengthy back-and-forth exchange.

“It’s tough,” Clutterbuck said. “A lot of us in this room have that common sense trigger that goes off in our heads. Obviously there are some circumstances where it’s tough to control yourself when other teams try to take liberties on your teammates. There’s a time and a place for taking care of that and we did a good job of that last night.”

While the Islanders eventually lost in the shootout, and didn’t get the two points they set out for, it wasn’t because they took their foot off the gas. The Islanders continued to outshoot the opposition – 10 to 8 in the third period, and 44 to 34 overall, not allowing the Sabres enforcers to get under their skin.

“We played the way we need to play and generated a lot of shots, a lot of scoring opportunities,” forward Matt Martin said. “Sometimes you're going to lose those games but we definitely need to find a way to hold on and start winning them.”

Moral victories won’t get a team into the playoffs, but Okposo added that the Islanders can look at Tuesday’s game as a blueprint to how they need to play going forward.

“Last night we played our game for the most part,” Okposo said. “We were physical. Tenacious. We were beating guys to pucks. We had a couple bad bounces – that happens sometimes. But if we play like that, we’re going to win a lot more games than we lose.”

The Sabres showed the scrappy resolve of a team trying to climb its way out of the Eastern Conference cellar. The Islanders next opponent, the Edmonton Oilers, is a team playing in similar circumstances. The Oilers sit in last place in the Western Conference and are looking to reverse a 1-5-1 start. Game time Thursday against Edmonton is 7:00 p.m.

SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 MTL 62 41 16 5 171 135 87
2 NYI 64 41 21 2 205 179 84
3 NYR 61 38 17 6 192 152 82
4 TBL 64 38 20 6 210 171 82
5 DET 61 35 15 11 180 159 81
6 PIT 62 36 17 9 181 155 81
7 WSH 64 34 20 10 188 159 78
8 BOS 62 31 22 9 165 161 71
9 FLA 63 28 22 13 154 178 69
10 PHI 63 27 25 11 168 183 65
11 OTT 60 27 23 10 171 163 64
12 NJD 63 26 27 10 141 164 62
13 CBJ 62 26 32 4 160 196 56
14 CAR 61 24 30 7 142 162 55
15 TOR 63 25 33 5 170 193 55
16 BUF 63 19 39 5 123 212 43

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Tavares 64 30 35 4 65
K. Okposo 46 14 30 -2 44
R. Strome 64 14 27 22 41
B. Nelson 64 17 19 7 36
F. Nielsen 64 11 25 12 36
A. Lee 58 20 13 13 33
J. Bailey 52 12 19 10 31
J. Boychuk 54 7 23 16 30
N. Leddy 64 8 18 15 26
T. Hamonic 54 4 21 15 25
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
J. Halak 33 13 0 .911 2.46
C. Johnson 8 8 1 .889 3.08

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