In somewhat of a roller coaster game, the Islanders defeated the Carolina Hurricanes 4-3 in a shootout tonight in Raleigh, North Carolina. After taking an early lead on a Matt Moulson powerplay goal, the Isles allowed two unanswered goal to Carolina, including one by Brandon Sutter on a horrific giveaway by Evgeni Nabokov behind his net.
Trailing 2-1 in the third period, the Islanders came back on a powerplay goal by Frans Nielsen off a carom on a Mark Streit cannon from the point. However, Carolina went ahead late on a Chad LaRose goal after a horrible giveaway by Brian Rolston and subsequent soft Milan Jurcina pokecheck. With just over a minute left, a great keep by Travis Hamonic led to a fantastic power move behind the net by John Tavares, who fired a laser cross-crease onto the stick of Kyle Okposo who knocked it home. While that goal seemed easy for Okposo, passes like that are extremely hard to control, so Okposo did a good job to tie the game on his seventh goal of the season.
After a scoreless overtime, shootout goals by P.A. Parenteau and Frans Nielsen gave the Isles the win as Nabokov stopped 2/3 Carolina shooters.
Overall, this was a good road win for the Isles. They showed resiliency and urgency down a goal late, which is something we have not often seen from the team this season. While the Isles are still teetering on the brink of being out of the playoff race, they pulled to nine points behind the eighth place Jets with a game at hand. The Isles have now won three in a row as they head to Anaheim and Phoenix for a west coast back-to-back. It wouldn't shock me to see Anders Nilsson get a start in one of these games, as it's important that Nabokov gets his rest to keep him fresh going forward. Even when Al Montoya comes back, these two will be rightfully fighting for playoff time.
One thing that has bothered me is that the bottom three lines are essentially offensive black holes right now. Aside from Tavares, Moulson, Parenteau, and Okposo, it seems like a surprise when another Islanders forward scores a goal. That type of balance is not healthy going forward and could be a big detriment going forward. A struggling Frans Nielsen and Michael Grabner are not helping things, as it will get harder for the Tavares line to score as teams start to tighten up on his line once playoff races begin.
That said, a very solid win tonight and a good start to a road trip in which the Isles could easily take back 4 of 6 points to Long Island for a tough home week coming up.