The Islanders found a way snapping a two-game losing streak to move back into first place. Brock Nelson’s goal with 6:08 left in regulation snapped a 3-3 tie allowing the Islanders to win over the slumping Predators 4-3. His 18th helped them survive a Preds’ third period comeback.
After Nick Leddy restored a two-goal lead thanks to a nice pass from Frans Nielsen at 8:39 of the third, Nashville scored twice within a 31-second span to tie it. Less than two minutes after Leddy’s ninth, Ryan Ellis’ one-timer from the right point deflected off Mike Ribeiro in front past Jaroslav Halak. Due to Ribeiro’s stick being over the crossbar, a video review in Toronto had to determine whether or not his stick made contact. Replays were inconclusive with it appearing to go off Ribeiro’s body allowing the goal to stand up.
With momentum, Nashville followed up Ribeiro’s goal by tying it on the next shift. A brilliant rush and terrific feed from Calder front runner Filip Forsberg allowed an unchecked Craig Smith to finish his 21st at the doorstep tying it 3-3 with 9:13 remaining. The next couple of shifts, the Predators spent time in the Islanders end searching for the go-ahead goal. It never came. When you’re struggling, what usually follows is a goal allowed. Precisely why the Preds dropped a season high fifth straight.
Taking advantage of a Seth Jones neutral zone turnover, Johnny Boychuk found a cutting Michael Grabner, who skated in and fired a wrist shot from the left circle that caromed off Pekka Rinne for a juicy rebound right to Nelson, who buried the opportunity for the game-winner. From that point, the Islanders did an outstanding job defensively blanketing the Preds. They never threatened allowing the Isles to post a key win moving two points up on the idle Rangers despite playing three more games.
”It’s just a good way to come in here on the road against a tough team,” Nelson said. ”It’s tough to beat them twice in a short span here, and we were able to find a way. It’s a good bounce-back game for us.”
A good start keyed the big road win. Captain John Tavares scored his 31st from Josh Bailey and Lubomir Visnovsky at 11:24 of the first matching a career high in goals. Late in the stanza, rookie Anders Lee stayed hot scoring his 22nd on the power play from Leddy and Tavares for a 2-0 lead. But in the closing seconds, the Predators took advantage of an Islander defensive miscue with Colin Wilson able to stuff one past Halak with under two seconds left for a one-goal deficit. Mike Fisher set it up with James Neal in front.
”For the most part after, although with a shaky start, we were the better team, and we created opportunities and got them to pay off,” Tavares said after tallying a goal and assist.
Despite outshooting Nashville 12-5 in the second, the Islanders were unable to increase their lead. After the Predators put on some early pressure in the third, a great shift by the second line increased the Isles’ lead back to two. Off a strong cycle, Boychuk and Nielsen combined to set up Leddy, who came off the bench and had the good fortune of his short side wrister going off Rinne.
But the Predators responded quickly thanks to some luck of their own with Ellis’ shot caroming off Ribeiro making it a one-goal game. Following a video review, Roman Josi picked up the secondary helper. He’s the defenseman who is paired with Shea Weber who doesn’t get any credit. Josi has followed a ’13-14 breakout with a strong ’14-15. A Norris candidate, he could be up for it. It still should go to Mark Giordano even though his season is done.
While Nashville should also have Rinne up for the Vezina which will go to Carey Price barring an investigation, they also boast leading rookie Forsberg. A special talent, the former Caps first round pick they stole for Martin Erat used his speed and vision to set up Smith tying the score.
But the Isles didn’t fold. Instead, they responded thanks to a good defensive play from Boychuk leading to a Grabner rebound that Nelson finished. Boychuk finished with two assists giving him 24 for the season. An unrestricted free agent this summer, it’ll be interesting to see if the Islanders can convince him to stay. The ex-Bruin has been a valuable team leader who anchors the blueline. His role has taken pressure off Travis Hamonic, who has continued to thrive.
”We’ve got a positive group,” coach Jack Capuano said. ”It’s such a different team than we’ve had in the past. I’ve said that. We just wanted to play with poise and confidence moving forward.”
BONY 3 Stars:
3rd Star-Johnny Boychuk, NYI (2 assists, 3 SOG, 4 hits, 3 blocked shots, +1 in 19:29)
2nd Star-Nick Leddy, NYI (goal-9th, assist, 4 SOG, 2 blocks, +1 in 21:08)
1st Star-Brock Nelson, NYI (game-winner-18th, 2 SOG, +1 in 17:38)
Notes: Halak finished with 28 saves improving to 33-13-1. Perhaps Capuano gives him Saturday off and starts deadline acquisition Michal Neuvirth versus the Panthers. … With Matt Martin serving a one-game suspension for his kneeing major that injured Stars defenseman Trevor Daley, Capuano inserted Eric Boulton. He took 11 shifts and was minus-one in 7:11. The fourth line struggled. Casey Cizikas only played 12 shifts (7:22) and was minus-two as was Colin McDonald (7:43). … With a helper, Bailey recorded his 20th assist of the season. In more of a support role, he’s performed well tallying 13 goals and 20 assists with a plus-11 rating. … With the victory, the Islanders improved to 42-21-3 in 66 games. They trail the Canadiens by a point for the top seed in the East. Montreal lost 4-3 in a shootout to the Kings for their third consecutive loss.