Goals by Frans Nielsen and Andrew MacDonald led the Islanders to at 2-1 win over the Minnesota Wild, but it was the penalty kill and a 20 save effort from Al Montoya that secured the team’s first win of the 2011-12 season.
“I have to take my hat off to the killers on this team,” Montoya said after the game. “They did an unbelievable job, throwing their bodies in front of some of the heaviest shots in this league. It says a lot, that PK is going to be our bread and butter. To kill 5-on-3’s back-to-back, that’s just huge momentum for us and pushes us into the third period.”
Dany Heatley is stopped by Al Montoya at Nassau Coliseum on October10, 2011. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
The Islanders would take six penalties in the second and third period, but the first period goals from MacDonald (power play goal, 9:05) and Nielsen (even, 11:45) would hold through the second period, surviving a 5-on-3 penalty kill. The team’s penalty killers, including Hamonic, MacDonald and Jay Pandolfo, did an exceptional job.
But Montoya made the difference. Not only did he stand tall through 1:16 of 5-on-3 in the second stanza, he made 20 saves in the winning effort, 18 of which came in the final 40 minutes.
“I thought we did a good job as a team on the penalty kill,” Pandolfo said. “It’s important, sometimes you’re going to have a game with five or six penalties and you just try to do the best job you can. I’m always a big believer in your goalie is your best penalty killer and Al (Montoya) was unbelievable tonight. He was huge in some of those.”
Islanders Head Coach Jack Capuano said all the late penalties slowed the team’s momentum.
“Anytime you take as many penalties as we had, you can’t get into the flow of the game,” Capuano said. “You have some of your better players on the bench, your offensive guys and their minutes are cut short on them and they go 5-6 minutes without getting a shift. It’s tough on those guys.”
In the first period, Mikko Koivu took a tripping penalty at 8:54 and the Islanders capitalized 11 seconds later. MacDonald put the Islanders on the board with a power play goal, following up on a Travis Hamonic rebound from just below the blue line.
“PA (Parenteau) made a beautiful pass across ice,” Hamonic said. “It landed right on my stick. I had an opportunity to bring the puck to the net. You’re really just trying to put the puck on net and I cleared the rebound kick right up to AMac (MacDonald). He was pretty happy to score that goal.”
Andrew MacDonald and Brett Bulmer play for the puck along the boards during the second period at Nassau Coliseum on October 10, 2011. (Photo by Christopher Pasatieri/Getty Images)
Just over two minutes later, John Tavares set-up the game-winning goal and he wasn’t even on the ice when the puck crossed the goal line. Skating along the boards, he brought the puck into the offensive zone, but recognized when he was feeling tired and skated off after a cross-ice pass to Parenteau.
Parenteau (2 assists) passed back to Mark Streit, who faked out a Wild skater and sent a rocket wide towards the top of the crease. Nielsen, who came in to replace Tavares, went in for the redirection and lifted the puck top shelf.
“It was a great play,” Capuano said. “You can look at it from your view on that. Johnny Tavares was tired, he recognized that, he changed. Fransie (Nielsen) came off the bench with fresh legs and it was a great shot pass, but there are a lot of things that go into the goals, little things. It was a great play by Streiter (Streit), a heads up play.”
Matt Cullen scored the Wild’s only goal 1:13 into the third period with assists from Guillaume Latendresse and Brett Bulmer.
Looking at the positives, Pandolfo said the team can move on from here when they faceoff at home Thursday against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
“We can play better in the second and third, but we got the win so that’s important,” Pandolfo said. “We have to learn from some of the mistakes we made in the second and third, but as long as we got the win it’s huge. We can get some confidence and go from here.”