The New York Islanders fell to the Vancouver Canucks 4-3 in a shootout at the Nassau Coliseum on Tuesday, but to a man, the team was pleased with their effort and the fact that they got a hard earned point against the team with the league’s best record.
The star for the Isles was unquestionably rookie goalie Kevin Poulin who made 48 saves to keep the Islanders in the game in only his second career NHL start.
“Kevin played excellent tonight,” Isles Coach Jack Capuano explained. “He was seeing the pucks, he controlled rebounds. He played extremely well for us and gave us a chance to win the hockey game.”
Poulin was also pleased with his game.
“I’m pretty confident and not really nervous,” he said when asked about his second NHL start. “It’s still hockey. I feel great out there. I faced 50 shots against the best team in the league and I think I looked OK. It was a great challenge.”
The Isles needed Poulin to be sharp early as the Canucks threatened to blow the Isles right out of the building in the first period. Vancouver outskated the Isles and made a series of pretty passes to set up quality scoring chances. The Canucks took 20 shots on goal in the first period but Poulin stopped 19 of them and the Isles were trailing only 1-0 after the first period despite being outshot 20-9. The only goal came when Alexandre Burrows had a puck deflect off his body and into the goal just 4:58 into the game. The play was set up by a pretty feed by Daniel Sedin.
The Islanders improved their play in the second period and drew even on a blast from the point by Jack Hillen just one second after an Islanders power play had expired.
“Their guy came out sliding and basically when you’re a defenseman and they guy’s coming out at you you’re just trying to beat that first guy and hope something good happens,” Hillen said.
Ryan Kesler gave Vancouver back the lead with 15.4 seconds left in the second period off a series of sharp passes by Raffi Torres and Mikael Samuelsson. Kesler beat Poulin high to the stick side on the only shot that beat the rookie cleanly all night. The Canucks held a 2-1 lead after two periods.
The Isles’ power play came through to even the score again just 3:14 into the third period. With Kevin Bieksa in the penalty box for high sticking, John Tavares beat Roberto Luongo with a one-timer for his 15th goal of the season.
Both teams had plenty of scoring chances in a wide open final stanza, but both Luongo and Poulin kept things even until Blake Comeau’s blast on a turnaround shot from just inside the Vancouver blue line gave the Isles a 3-2 lead with just 5:36 remaining in regulation.
Unfortunately for the Isles, the lead lasted only 34 seconds. Bieksa let a shot go from the point that deflected in off an Isles defenseman. Torres was in front of the Isles net to help screen the goalie on the play as well. The game was tied 3-3 and headed for overtime.
The Canucks had the better chances in the extra session but Poulin was able to keep them off the board, with a little help from Matt Moulson who made a diving play to clear the puck from the defensive zone in the final seconds of overtime.
In the shootout, Rob Schremp beat Luongo with a hard snap shot to give the Isles the early advantage but Mason Raymond quickly evened it with a spin-o-rama goal which beat Poulin.
After misses by P.A. Parenteau, Jeff Tambellini and Tavares, Kesler ended the game with a wrist shot that beat Poulin to give Vancouver a 4-3 shootout win.
Despite the loss, the Isles were pleased with the way they played against the team with the best record in the league.
“It was a good effort,” Hillen added. “It’s nice when we can consistently battle back and stay positive on the bench when we get down.”
They also won the respect of the Canucks. “They played well,” Luongo said of the Islanders. “It was a tougher game than it looked to be.”
“It was a nice ending,” Kesler added, “But I’ll tell you, they [the Isles] work really hard.”
The Islanders continue their five-game home stand Thursday night when they host the Ottawa Senators.
The Islanders recalled forward Rhett Rakhshani from Bridgeport on an emergency basis prior to the game. He had two shots on goal in 11:41 of ice time and was a minus-one for the game.
The Isles scratches included Bruno Gervais, Trevor Gillies and Rick DiPietro. Vancouver scratched Aaron Rome and Aaron Volpatti.
Matt Martin was knocked down by a hard punch to the face in a second period fight with Vancouver’s Tanner Glass. Martin headed to the locker room for repairs but did return to the game.
Michael Grabner led the Isles with seven shots on goal. Grabner had several excellent scoring chances in the game but was unable to finish. Prior to the game, it was announced that Grabner would participate in the rookie skills competition at the All-Star Game. No other Islanders were named to the team.