I’d be lying if I said I knew how to begin this post.
Let’s just say this: if heartbreak were a sport, the Islanders would win the top prize nine years out of ten.
After jumping out to a 3-1 lead against all odds, the Isles completely broke down, allowing the Buffalo Sabres to tie, then win in a shootout, 4-3. Al Montoya recovered from a shaky first period to keep the Islanders in it, but ultimately faltered next to Ryan Miller, who rebounded from his own awful first period and was just a step ahead.
Frans Nielsen would start off the scoring in the first. Mike Weber coughed the puck up to Michael Grabner from behind the Sabres’ net, and Grabner in turn passed to a streaking Nielsen, who put it neatly past Miller. A few minutes later, Nathan Gerbe was lucky enough to have his shot bounce off of Montoya’s arm and into the net to tie the game. Josh Bailey and Nielsen would break the tie and add to the lead, giving the “Danish Prince” a three-point game heading into the second. Miller finished that period with a .625 save percentage, a testament to just how the Isles were able to capitalize on his and his teammates’ mistakes.
Then came an extremely lethargic second period, in which the Isles failed to carry over any kind of momentum from the first. The lone goal was scored by Brad Boyes at 18:41, continuing the Islanders’ trend of allowing goals against late in the period (before, it was early… change of season to blame, perhaps?).
In the third, things got interesting… and a bit frightening. The Isles’ blueline was already a bit thinned out after losing Milan Jurcina in last night’s game against Ottawa to an elbow laceration (Jurcina remains day-to-day). Then, Travis Hamonic caught a slapper to the face right in front of the net; it looked as though Christian Ehrhoff took the initial shot, but it went off of Nielsen’s stick. Hamonic left blood all over the ice on his way to the locker room. Yeah, it wasn’t a pretty sight, and it sure got the Isles nervous; they would allow a tying goal by Derek Roy (his 10th of the year) at 11:46, pushing the game to overtime.
Oh, overtime. Y u make me so scared? The Isles would catch a HUGE break as Ville Leino served a too-many-men (or too much man, whichever you’d like to call it) penalty for the final two minutes of the extra session, but instead of utilizing a wide-open man down low, it was mainly passing between three of the four skaters. Blah, blah, blah. Plus, Ryan Miller and his penalty killers pretty much stood on their heads, making the two minutes go by in a flash, and before I could even start BREATHING properly again, we were headed to a shootout, which the Sabres clinched on goals by Boyes and Jason Pominville.
Grr. Boo. Hiss.
I wish I could rant more, but I can’t. I wish I could scream and swear and cry about this loss, buuut I think I already did enough of that on Twitter. All I’ll say is this: the Islanders did not deserve to win this game. At all. They were able to take advantage of the Sabres’ mistakes, but they made too many of their own. And Montoya, bless his heart, tried his best, but he needs more starts before he can shake off the rust that’s settled in the month he missed with a concussion. Never mind the all-too-welcome presence of secondary scoring, but in its wake, another problem has come about: the top line was completely missing from the score sheet. Aside from an assist by Kyle Okposo, there was nothing. No Moulson. No Tavares. It wasn’t from lack of trying, because I remember Miller stopping both of them, and I remember seeing some incredible work from JT to keep the puck in the Sabres’ zone during the third period and OT especially. I guess it’s more of a testament to the Sabres’ defensive play this game, at least when it came to this line. I can’t say much about anything else, since it seemed as though the Isles shot themselves in the foot more than anything, but… yeah, this was just a frustrating game all around.
Time to regroup and look toward Philadelphia on Tuesday night…
EDIT: Guess I should mention that according to little voices on Twitter, Ryan Miller became the winningest goalie in Sabres history with his 235th win tonight. I may have intensely disliked him tonight, but… I can’t hate him, ever. Congrats, Ryan. Job well done.