Isles: Nothing Could Be Finer Than Beating Carolina
By Stan Fischler
February 18, 2012
As the Hurricanes’ song goes, “Nothing Could Be Finer Than To Be In Carolina In the Morning.”
A more appropriate Islanders version would be “Nothing Could Be Finer than to Beat Carolina on Saturday Evening” as Jack Capuano’s skaters did -- just barely -- by the score of 4-3 at The Coliseum.
And with the Trade Deadline just a week-and-change away, every Islanders game takes on a dual significance, especially with Toronto losing and the Isles now six points behind the Leafs with a game in hand.
Not surprisingly, John Tavares led the Islanders’ offensive with two goals, while Kyle Okposo and Frans Nielsen each tallied a goal. JT’s 24th goal 38 seconds into the final period proved to be the winner.
“Overall, it was a great effort by everybody,” explained the typically modest Tavares, “every game is important and we need to build off this momentum.”
Truer words were never spoken, especially with Ottawa visiting Uniondale on Monday afternoon.
“This was an important two points,” said Tavares. “The guys played hard and it showed.”
With Evgeni Nabokov sidelined for a second straight game with flu-like symptoms, the Islanders recalled Kevin Poulin from Bridgeport, who made his fourth start in goal with the big club. The Kid delivered big time in the third period.
“I was confident,” said Poulin. “We went into the third period with the mindset of a victory and we found a way to get by Carolina.”
One period of play revealed a split personality on the ice. Over the first half, the Islanders dominated and produced the game’s first goal as a result.
Only 2:07 into the frame, Okposo delivered his 13th goal; wristing the rubber over Cam Ward’s left shoulder. Michael Grabner launched the offensive with a dynamic rush down the left side before hitting Okposo with a solid pass.
Assuming that turnabout is fair play, Carolina took over the next 10 minutes.
Brandon Sutter, son of Islanders legend Brent Sutter, tied the count at 13:47 after the Islanders failed in a pinch attempt to keep the puck in the Hurricanes' end.
Sutter emerged with a two-on-one break, skating free to fire a backhander under Poulin’s right pad.
“We had some breakdowns,” said Capuano, “but we got the two points and now we have to look ahead to Monday. I was pleased with the way Poulin played, especially in the third period.”
Carelessness proved fatal to the Isles only 15 seconds into the second period when Jiri Tlusty scored his14th goal.
The breakdown play began when defenseman Mark Eaton’s breakout pass was intercepted by Jerome Samson at the Islanders' blue line. Samson’s pass to the front of the net found Tlusty, who broke free from Eaton at the top of the crease.
Tavares snapped his eight-game goalless drought at 4:10. The Isles’ primary scorer dashed down the right side before deking defenseman Jaroslav Spacek. With a deft maneuver, Tavares then slid the rubber past a diving Ward.
“Even when John doesn’t score,” added Capuano, “I know he’s focused and will deliver.”
After Tim Brent was penalized for hooking, the Islanders took advantage with Nielsen’s twelfth goal. The play started when Tavares ladled a perfect pass to Nielsen, who then fired a shot behind Ward at 8:01.
The Hurricanes redeemed themselves when Spacek scored his third goal. Eric Staal won the faceoff to Spacek, who then blasted a slap shot from the blue line, beating a screened Poulin under his right pad at 10:58.
Desperation would be the order of the night as both teams scrambled for the two points.
Ward was pulled for Justin Peters at the start of the third period.
Just 38 seconds into the period, Tavares delivered once again. After Peters made the initial stop on Matt Moulson’s shot, the Isles ace managed to find the loose puck in front of the Hurricanes net before backhanding the rubber past Peters.