Raise your hand if you thought this was how the second half of the Islanders' season would go.
While I of course cannot see your responses, I'm willing to guess that most of your hands are still down.
The New York Islanders are on some kind of run these past few weeks, and they are playing like a team poised for a playoff run.
Before this game started, I had a chance to meet Dean Chynoweth, the Islanders' assistant coach. I couldn't help but notice how happy he looked the entire time.
Well, I doubt he's been able to stop smiling, knowing how well things have been going lately, and how his team performed again today, beating the Florida Panthers 5-1 at Nassau Coliseum this afternoon.
The Islanders dominated this game right from the start, as Matt Moulson scored a pair of goals, and the Isles held a 19-4 advantage in shots on goal after 20 minutes of play.
Moulson's big day was far from over, as he would add an empty-netter with a minute and a half left in the third period for his second career hat trick, and his first on home ice.
With his hat trick, Moulson passed Michael Grabner for the team lead with 26 goals on the season.
The Isles are now the only team in the National Hockey League to feature three 23-plus goalscorers on their roster.
It was another fantastic game for the Moulson-Tavares-Parenteau line, as both Tavares and Parenteau picked up assists on Moulson's goals.
Josh Bailey notched his third goal in four games, and it was a gorgeous one. Bailey moved around a defender, and with Panthers goaltender Tomas Vokoun hugging the post, ripped a shot into the top shelf on the opposite side of the net.
Radek Martinek also scored for New York, netting a power play goal after being elbowed by Stephen Weiss, which created the man-advantage for the Isles.
Grabner had a very strong game, though his name will not show up on the scoresheet. Grabs was robbed at least three times by Vokoun.
The fact that Grabner didn't score against the Panthers was likely the only plus for Florida in this contest. The Isles were the better team from start to finish.
New York won virtually all the battles in the corners, and did a good job finding loose pucks, as well as making smart plays and moving the puck with finesse.
Al Montoya picked up the win for the Islanders, his second straight victory. He has stopped 55 of the last 56 shots he has faced.
With the win, New York sits just 11 points out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Take a moment to let that last line sink in if you need to.
Not to get ahead of ourselves here, but while improbable, a playoff berth is definitely possible. It would not in the least bit surprise me if this club made the postseason.
On a side note, there were nearly 14,000 fans in attendance for today's game. The team's recent success is generating a buzz, and the fans on Long Island are responding.
For all those who say this team cannot draw fans, it's simply not true. If this team continues to win, the seats will fill up at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
Especially if they play anything like they did today.
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