The New York Islanders played a solid game Saturday night at the Nassau Coliseum but Max Pacioretty’s goal at 1:51 of overtime gave the Montreal Canadiens a 1-0 win in a tightly contested game. Cary Price made 21 saves to earn his second shutout of the season for Montreal.
Things are starting to look up for the Isles. Evgeni Nabokov made 24 saves in his first game back in the lineup since November 16th and Ryan Strome showed flashes of the ability that made him the fifth overall pick in the 2011 NHL Draft while making his NHL debut. The Isles also had Brian Strait back in the lineup which was a steadying influence on the defense.
The result was the same, however, an overtime loss before a boisterous crowd of 14,408. That loss dropped the Isles to 1-9-3 in their last 13 games.
The game-winning goal was a pretty play. David Desharnais set up the goal with an aggressive forecheck and then slid a perfect pass to Pacioretty who beat Nabokov for the only goal of the game.
“I thought [Desharnais] was going to wrap around,” Nabokov said. “I’m not sure if he saw [Pacioretty] there, or just fanned on it, but it got into the back door.”
The Islanders had three chances on the power play in this game but were unable to convert on any of them. The biggest chance came in the third period when Montreal forward Lars Eller was called for illegal contact to the head. John Tavares had his head down as he carried the puck behind his own net and Eller hit him high. Tavares was not injured on the play and after the game, said it was not a dirty play.
“He got me mostly in the shoulder,” Tavares explained. “I saw him coming. I was just a little low coming around the net. I saw him coming and I really couldn’t get out of the way. He made a good hit.”
“We’ve got to find ways to generate some more chances and get in better areas,” Tavares admitted. “We’ve got to try to create some more space somehow and find a way to score. The power play has got to be better.”
A lot of the focus for Islanders fans tonight was on Strome’s NHL debut. The rookie looked like he fit in and made a few moves that showed off his skill and potential.
“I was more comfortable than I thought,” Strome said. “These guys made it easy…I can’t sit and just admire my game. I want to get better and prove I belong.”
Tavares agreed that Strome had a respectable debut. “I thought Ryan made some good plays. You could see his poise with the puck, entering the zone and just finding some open guys. It’s not going to take him long to make the adjustment. He’s a smart player. His hockey IQ and skill level is just elite and so it’s just that adjustment to finding some space on the ice and playing with guys who are bigger and stronger.”
In 14:42 of ice time, Strome was credited with two shots on goal and won 5-of-11 faceoffs. He was on the ice for 3:43 of power play time.
The Islanders return to action on Tuesday night when they host the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Isles paid tribute to the victims of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School on the first anniversary of the murders with a moment of silence before the game.
The Isles are now 0-16-4 when they score two or fewer goals in a game this season.
Eric Boulton had a fight with George Parros early in the first period. Parros went down hard at the end of the brawl and did not return to the game.