The New York Islanders found themselves in a familiar situation after 40 minutes, up by one goal against a team they expected to beat. This time, they got the job done and held on for a well-deserved 3-2 victory.
The Isles held the Oilers to just eight shots on goal in the third period and few of those were quality scoring chances. In essence, the Isles clamped down on an explosive offensive team with the game on the line and held them in check.
“I really don’t think they had a lot of great chances in the third,” explained defenseman Travis Hamonic. “We did a really great job of limiting them and I think collectively as a group, that’s a confidence boost.”
Josh Bailey, Kyle Okposo and John Tavares tallied for the Islanders while Evgeni Nabokov made 27 saves to earn the win. Taylor Hall scored both Oilers’ goals which came just eight seconds apart late in the first period.
The Islanders started slowly, but by the 5:00 mark of the game, they found their pace and started putting pressure on an Oilers’ club not known for their tight defensive play. Hamonic pushed himself into the play offensively and set up Bailey for a one-timer from the right circle that made it 1-0 Isles 9:59 into the game.
The Islanders controlled the play for most of the first period but a series of breakdowns allowed Edmonton to take a 2-1 lead thanks to the strong play of Hall. The Oilers star scored twice in eight seconds, putting home a cross ice pass from Justin Schultz to score the first goal and then pouncing on the rebound of a shot by Mark Arcobello to give Edmonton a 2-1 lead with exactly 4:00 left in the first period.
A power play goal by Okposo tied the game 4:54 into the second stanza. This was the prettiest goal of the night as Tavares, Matt Moulson and Okposo played tic-tac-toe to give Okposo an empty net to shoot at. It was his second goal of the young season and evened the score at 2-2.
The penalty kill came through for the Islanders in the second period and turned the tide of the game. Edmonton seemed to be gaining momentum and three straight penalties were called against the home team at 7:08 (Okposo), 9:26 (Hamonic) and 13:56. In each instance, the Islanders clamped down to limit the Oilers’ scoring chances and kept the visitors off the scoreboard.
“Your goalie has to be your best player on the penalty kill,” Isles’ coach Jack Capuano said. “They seamed us quite a few times on that PK in the second period and had a couple one-timers. He [Nabokov] made some big saves for us and really that was the turning point.”
Tavares closed out the scoring with just 1:07 left in the second period when Okposo found his captain open between the circles and Tavares lifted the puck over Devan Dubnyk’s shoulder and into the net.
Then it was the defenses turn to clamp down and hold the lead, something the Isles have struggled to do at home this season. The team passed the test tonight with flying colors.
“As a group, I think we need to challenge each other and be a little harder on each other and to push ourselves to finish games,” Tavares said. “We’ve let up at key times and it’s hurt us. But we just challenged each other to stay with it and focus on what we had to do to finish them off and I thought we did a good job of it.”
The Islanders will return to action Saturday night when they host the Carolina Hurricanes at the Nassau Coliseum.
The Oilers have now lost seven straight games at the Nassau Coliseum.
Hall’s two goals in eight seconds broke an Oilers’ franchise record formerly held by Wayne Gretzky. “The Great One” scored twice in nine seconds back on February 18, 1981 against the St. Louis Blues.
Attendance was 10,608.