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Isles-Red Wings: A Successful Challenge With Another Challenge Coming Up

By Stan Fischler
January 10, 2012

A four-game Islanders home stand, starting with powerhouses such as Detroit on Tuesday night and Philadelphia next on Thursday, is as challenging as it can get for Jack Capuano’s skaters.

After losing two straight on the road to Anaheim and Phoenix, John Tavares, Inc., was seeking the formula that enabled the club to develop a three-game winning streak that preceded their Western expedition.

They found it in spades with a stunning 5-1 triumph at Nassau Coliseum. For that they can thank a Red Light Brigade that included Matt Moulson’s two goals -- he now has 20 -- along with single tallies from Tavares, Kyle Okposo and Michael Grabner.

“Everybody played well,” said Evgeni Nabokov, tremendous in goal throughout. “We had the momentum early and we kept it going.”

With the second half of the season close to unfolding for the Nassaumen, coach Cappy continues to shake and bake in search of a healthy recipe for success. Nothing could be healthier than the spectacular goaltending of Nabokov, who produced a total of 23 saves, many of them of the tough variety.

“Nabby was great,” said Grabner. “He set the tone early and we thrived off his rock-solid performance.”

Nabokov was tested early in the first period when Cory Emmerton’s tip-in shot from the top of the crease hit the goal post, giving the home crowd a sense of relief.

“I got support from everybody on the roster,” chuckled Nabokov, “and now we have to repeat the process on Thursday against the Flyers.”

After defenseman Milan Jurcina was penalized for high-sticking at 15:34 of the first period, Nabby made the save of the moment when he made a diving stick stop on Valtteri Filppula.

The Isles had the crowd roaring its approval on a Moulson power-play goal at 19:07 of the initial period.

The unit of Tavares, P.A. Parenteau and Moulson criss-crossed the Wings before Moulson’s pass to Tavares caromed off Detroit’s Drew Miller’s skate and behind Ty Conklin.

“It wasn’t my prettiest goal of the year,” said Moulson. “I tried to force the puck to Johnny [Tavares] in front of Conklin and luckily it found the back of the net.”

Throughout the opening frame, the Islanders outshot Detroit, 17-8, which was a portent of even better things to come in the middle period; that is, three straight red lights for the home club.

Three minutes into the period, Nabokov produced another spectacular save with a sprawling blocker stop on Johan Franzen’s rebound shot from the left side of the crease.

Inspired by their goaltender, the Isles continued to penetrate the Detroit defense. The strategy paid off once more at 7:31 after Okposo sped along the left boards. The rejuvenated forward dropped a pass to Tavares, who cleanly beat Conklin with a wrist shot over his left shoulder.

Seizing the momentum, Okposo conked Conklin with another unstoppable drive, putting his club into a three-goal lead and the onslaught continued with Tavares leading the way at 11:10.

Before the fans could leave their seats for refreshments, they had another reason to cheer. This time it was Grabner who delivered Goal Four, using his speed to break free enough to hurl another winner past Conklin.

The period ended with the Isles ahead, 4-0, and the spectators wondering how the home club could maintain its cushion through the final twenty minutes.

Detroit’s coach Mike Babcock tried to turn the tide by yanking Conklin in favor of Jimmy Howard.

New York’s cushion dwindled early in the third period when Justin Abdelkader deflected a shot from defenseman Jakub Kindl through Nabokov’s five-hole at 2:36. Nabby didn’t have a chance on the play.

Nabokov followed that with another commendable stop, this time on Dan Cleary’s shorthanded breakaway chance midway through the final period.

The Isles made it 5-1 when Moulson deflected a shot from defenseman Mark Streit past Conklin at 13:57.

“We played them hard,” explained Tavares. “We’re going to build off this victory and continue to raise our level from here on.”

Hey, if they can trump the Red Wings, why not Philly?

We’ll find out on Thursday night.

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