The New York Islanders came out to win on Wednesday night at Nassau Coliseum. A two goal night from Blake Comeau, a three assist night from Frans Nielsen and success on the Islanders special teams spelled out a 4-1 victory over the Minnesota Wild – ending the Isles four-game skid.
“It was a good win for us,” Comeau said. “I thought we played well right from the start. We did what we wanted to do. We got lots of shots. They are a good defensive team and they worked hard. I thought we did what we needed to do. We got a lot of chances and worked their (defense) down low. Our (defense) did a good job.”
The Islanders kept on shooting the puck. No matter how many opportunities they got, or how much of a lead they took, the Islanders kept firing pucks at the net. At the end of regulation, they totaled 41 shots on goal, outshooting the Wild by seven. That’s just the fourth game all season the Isles have won a game when they’ve outshot their opponent.
“The first five minutes were pretty tough,” Islanders interim head coach Jack Capuano said. “We finally got out of the gate here tonight and changed some things around. We started playing. Once we got our legs under us, we started doing the right things and we were a pretty good hockey team.”
Blake Comeau #57 and Frans Nielsen #51 of the New York Islanders scores a first period goal against Niklas Backstrom #32 of the Minnesota Wild at the Nassau Coliseum on March 2, 2011 in Uniondale, New York. The Islanders defeated the Wild 4-1. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Special teams really deserve mention. In recent games, the Islanders have been struggling to put up a power play goal, but Wednesday night they changed that as Comeau and Andrew MacDonald each scored against the NHL’s leading penalty killers.
Prior to the Islanders matchup, the Wild had killed off 23-of-24 penalties they took in their last six games. And since the New Year, the Wild led the NHL in penalty killing with a 89.8 percent success rate.
“It’s obviously really encouraging,” MacDonald said. “We were pretty happy with the way we were moving the puck around on the power play. We weren’t really getting results, weren’t shooting enough. Tonight it was really good to get that monkey off our back.”
Al Montoya came extremely close to earning the second shutout of his short Islanders career, but a goal from John Madden at 11:33 of the third stanza ended that run. In all, Montoya made 33 saves in his seventh start to earn his fourth Islanders win.
“He’s been great every game he’s played for us,” MacDonald said. “He made that big glove save when he went post-to-post on their power play. I think that really gave us a good momentum boost. He was kicking rebounds to the corner, he was under control. You can’t say enough about the way he played.”
The first period started out extremely slow and Capuano made sure to switch up the line combinations to try to change the momentum on his bench. Whatever he did worked because midway through the period, the Islanders stepped up their game and Comeau scored the team’s first power play goal of the night at 10:31 to take a 1-0 lead.
The goal was also Comeau’s first since Feb. 15 versus the Ottawa Senators.
“(Josh) Bailey, DiBo (Justin DiBenedetto), (Matt) Martin and I wanted to step our game up, contribute and have a good night,” Comeau said. “I thought we did that. We have a lot of depth up front and I think any line can step up in any game.”
Then with 1:23 left in the period, Kyle Okposo found the back of the net with a backhanded shot that went five-hole to send the Islanders into first intermission with a 2-0 lead.
Kyle Okposo #21 of the New York Islanders congratulates Goaltender Al Montoya #35 on his victory over the Minnesota Wild on March 2, 2011 at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York. Islanders defeat the Wild 4-1. (Photo by Mike Stobe/NHLI via Getty Images)
To start the second period, the Islanders were extremely pumped. Taking the puck through the neutral zone, the Islanders gained a 3-on-2 and Bruno Gervais had the initial pass to set up a shot from Matt Martin, but Backstrom made the initial save and Comeau scored on the rebound.
After the Isles third goal, Wild head coach Todd Richards put goaltender Jose Theodore in net to relieve Backstrom. But it wasn’t enough. Clayton Stoner took a penalty for holding the stick and MacDonald was able to find the open area to take a slap shot and score the Islanders fourth goal of the night at 16:05.
With the three assist night, Nielsen’s play has not gone unnoticed by his teammates.
“He’s one of those guys that sometimes slips under the radar,” MacDonald said. “But he definitely doesn’t go unnoticed within our room. He’s definitely a leader on the ice. He’s not the most vocal guy, but his play speaks for itself. He’s very good defensively. His offensive ability is underrated. I think he’s one of the best passers on our team. I don’t think we could do much without him.”
Notes: Jack Hillen took a penalty for “clipping” at 12:37 of the second period. A clipping penalty is when a player hits an opponent at or below the knee. After the game, Capuano said he believed the check was clean. He was asked the last time he had seen a clipping penalty assessed and he jokingly responded “the Superbowl”.
In the second period (2:23), Trevor Gillies took a five minute major for checking from behind and a 10 minute game misconduct after a check to Cal Clutterbuck. Postgame, he spoke to Katie Strang of Newsday and Brett Cyrgalis of the New York Post. This is what he had to say:
“I just went over and finished my hit,” Gillies said. “There was no intent at all to injure him (Clutterbuck). I saw him hit DiBo (DiBenedetto) and I made a hit on him. That was it.”
He continued, “I didn’t think it was from behind at all. I hit him from the side.”
In regards to potential suspension, he said, “I’m sure I’ve got a little bit of a target, but that’s up to the league to decide.”