Perhaps it sounds elementary, but winning cures all difficulties. For the New York Islanders, it was a lesson they desperately needed to adhere to following a 1-3-1 mark in their last five games, resulting in the fewest points in the NHL overall. Returning home to the Barclays Center on Monday, the Islanders took the first step towards overcoming their previous woes with a 2-1 overtime win against the Calgary Flames.
“You are not going to win all 60 minutes of a hockey game,” Islanders head coach Jack Capuano said. “When the other team makes a surge, you play solid defense and that’s what you do. The players are so fast now and they are so good now, that you cannot dominate for 60 minutes. I thought we limited their chances and I am extremely glad they were able to collect two points tonight because they work so hard.”
With offense hard to come by this season, the Islanders sought to protect the defensive zone and limit potential scoring opportunities. The first period set the tone for that strategy, as the Flames collected just four shots on goal. Aiding their stout defensive play was goaltender Thomas Greiss, who stopped 25 of a possible 26 shots for his fourth victory.
“It was a big win. I think the team played well, so it was nice to get a win at home,” Greiss said. “I try not to look to put any pressure on myself. You don’t win every game, but you just give your best out there and try as hard as you can. Every game is big and you want to get something going here.”
Led by John Tavares, the Isles scored the game’s first tally on the captain’s sixth goal of the season, with the assist coming on a no-look pass from Josh Bailey at the 13:28 mark of the first period. The Islanders the opportunity to extend the lead with on multiple occasions, but were unable to score on five power-play chances.
The Flames befitted from the power play struggles when Sean Monahan recorded the equalizer on a one-timer early in the third period to eventually extend the game to overtime. Although the Islanders had difficulty with the man advantage, Capuano was pleased with their effort and credits the defense with keeping them in the game.
“I am just glad that the effort the guys put together was rewarded,” Capuano said. “We did not execute tonight on the power play that could have given us a little bit of an edge. At the end of the day, we got down to five D and we played hard.”
In the overtime period, the Islanders attacked the net and applied pressure against Calgary netminder Brian Elliott. After Jason Chimera narrowly missed ending the game with a backhanded shot, Thomas Hickey tipped in a Tavares shot in the slot to score his fourth career overtime goal in regular season play and snap the recent losing skid.
“It’s a good way to battle after a couple of tough losses on the road and it was good to come through,” Tavares said. “Right down the slot, I wanted to shoot it. I think everybody wanted me to shoot it. “I think just in general we needed to come through and get a big goal and Hickey is really an unsung hero for us.”
Following a rough month of November, the Islanders are continuing to rely on patience and hope that strong play on the defensive end and in goal can provide glimpses of the club’s full potential. While frustration continues to remain prevalent in the eyes of most supporters, collecting points will eventually alter perception. For the Islanders to achieve those goals, momentum is key entering the next game against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday.
“We are going to have to find some offense,” Capuano said. Against a team like Pittsburgh, they will make you look silly because of the offensive weapons they have. We must be disciplined and find a way to score.”