More than one head was scratched when Jack Capuano decided to go with rookie goalie Kevin Poulin instead of either Evgeni Nabokov or Al Montoya tonight. After the final buzzer, however, all doubts were vanquished
Yes, the kid was more than all right.
Poulin ended with 21 saves on the night, and when the Canes managed to get on the board, All-Star John Tavares came through with a four-point effort to help preserve the win, 5-2. The two 21-year-olds were excellent in their respective roles, Poulin showing some awesome flexibility and JT displaying his skill and work ethic as usual.
The Isles jumped out to a 2-0 lead over two periods on two power-play goals- one by PA Parenteau, the other by Matt Moulson. The ‘Canes got some great looks in these two periods, but Poulin made sure to shut them down, making spectacular saves on Brandon Sutter and Eric Staal in particular. This certainly was not the nervous-looking goalie we saw hung out to dry against the Predators; no, KP was in complete control, flashing the pads and glove like quicksilver.
Unfortunately, it couldn’t stay that way forever. The Hurricanes broke through at 3:15 of the first period, as Sutter backhanded one past Poulin. Then, in a crazy sequence on a Carolina PP, Poulin made an initial save and got caught completely out of position, with Tim Brent eventually sweeping one into the open net as the Isles D tried to keep the puck out. The ‘Canes didn’t have much time to celebrate, however; 41 seconds after Brent’s goal, Tavares got behind the defense and capitalized on a huge mistake by goalie Cam Ward. Unfortunately for Ward, who was otherwise very good, that would be all it took.
Kyle Okposo and Tavares then added empty-netters late in the game to seal the deal for the Islanders, who earned a huge two points tonight after dropping their home-and-home against the Toronto Maple Leafs just before the All-Star break. Looking at the boxscore also doesn’t tell the entire story; though the top line did the bulk of the scoring, the bottom two lines, particularly the Josh Bailey line which included newly-called-up Rhett Rakhshani, established a great forecheck from start to finish. Rakhshani looked very comfortable in his first game of the season alongside Bailey and Matt Martin, and had some nice chances in front of Cam Ward.
Overall, this was a solid effort by the orange and blue, and two points they do need, as they are now eight points out of a playoff spot and don’t play again until Friday night against the Ottawa Senators. (Look at that: just when Johnny thought he’d left Ottawa, he’s back a week later. Ha.)
Let’s go, Isles!