Oh what a game. The Isles took the first round of the home and home with the Penguins last night 5-4 in a shootout in Pittsburgh.
If I’m being honest, the Penguins scare me more than any other team in hockey. They’re obviously one of the best teams in the NHL, but certainly no one would put them as the definitive #1. But they always seem to have the Isle’s number. There has been a growing animosity between these two teams over the past couple of seasons, and you absolutely cannot count out the intangibles of a rivalry. Teams wake up when they play a rival, and the Isles and Pens give everything they’ve got when going head to head.
Last night’s game did not start out well at all. The Pen’s scored early. Like one minute into the game early. Chad Johnson had a rough outing in the net.
The defense that had been the strong point over this current hot streak was not playing up to par last night. Luckily the offense showed up in the big moments. They responded to the Penguins’ goal by netting three of their own in a minute and a half span. Matty Martin got the show started (Really? Matt Martin?) with his first goal of the season off of assists by Travis Hamonic and Ryan Strome. Martin has done pretty much nothing all season. He hasn’t even been fighting and that’s his main role on the team. It’s good to see him finally break the ice and pick up his first goal of the year. I guess that’s what happens when your girlfriend is Boomer Esiason’s daughter (and is a certified 11 out of 10).
Nikolay Kulemin picked up the second goal unassisted. Has Kulemin scored an assisted goal all season? He just creates plays out of nothing. He has been an absolute master at stealing the puck to create a breakaway and then just firing it home, especially when on the penalty kill. The third goal in the minute and a half onslaught came off the stick of Ryan Strome. This kid has show huge promise this season. He has been great all year, and is the main reason why the Islanders have been winning. He picked up his fourth goal in the past five games last night. While guys like John Tavares haven’t been appearing on the score sheet recently, guys like Brock Nelson and Ryan Strome have been picking up the slack. Oh, and Strome is only 21 years old.
This game came down to a shootout and it was the usual story. Tavares missed his first shot. Nielsen made his because I don’t think Frans Nielsen has ever missed a shootout shot. And they came Kyle Okposo. Oh Kyle. I have no idea how he does the things that he does. He pulled out an absolutely filthy deke move and had Marc-Andre Fleury laying on his stomach, having no idea where he was. You know that if I knew how to put videos into this blog you’d be watching that move right now. But I don’t have the mental capacity to do that. So I’m going to leave you with a picture and you’re going to use your imagination.
Game two of the home and home is tonight at the Ol’ Barn on Long Island. Halak will get the start between the pipes tonight. The place should be absolutely ROCKING. I’ll be there. Should be another classic in this budding rivalry.