The Isles were strong from the minute the puck was dropped, playing with determination on both ends of the ice and defeating the Minnesota Wild 4-1 in front of about 7,000 fans at Nassau Coliseum.
For the 9,000 non-spectators who could have filled those seats, they missed one of the team's best victories of the season.
The Wild did themselves in early on, taking an early penalty that led to a spectacular tic-tac-toe power play goal for the Islanders, started by Josh Bailey and Frans Nielsen, and finished off by Blake Comeau for his 16th goal of the campaign.
Later in that opening frame, Kyle Okposo scored a YouTube-esque goal, powering to the front of the net, while simultaneously putting the puck between his legs and underneath a sprawling Nicklas Backstrom, lifting New York to a 2-0 edge over the visitors.
Comeau would score a second time, banging in a rebound for his 17th tally of the season and giving the Islanders a 3-0 lead.
Andrew MacDonald would make it 4-0 late in the second frame, firing a bullet from the point that found the back of the net.
Nielsen had three assists for New York, as he continues to prove just how underrated a hockey player he is.
Michael Grabner, fresh off being named the NHL's rookie of the month, contributed with a helper on the scoresheet.
The most frustrated Islander after this game has to be John Tavares, who hit three posts and hasn't gotten on the board over the last few contests.
The one blight on tonight's matchup had to be Trevor Gillies, whose return to action following a nine-game suspension lasted 22 minutes and change. You can be sure the league will look into his hit on Minnesota forward Cal Clutterbuck, which earned Trevor a five-minute major penalty, as well as a game misconduct, essentially ending his night.
In net, Al Montoya had a really strong game, making several nice stops, and providing quality goaltending for a team that hasn't gotten much of that this season.
He survived a scare late in the game, when he took a slapshot to the face. He would however shake it off and return to the goal crease. For everyone on that Islander bench, watching their goaltender get hurt and seeing him stay in the game had to be a confidence booster. This team has had enough issues due to goalie injuries.
Just to close with some food for thought: If this is how the Isles are going to finish this season, how good do you think they'll be in 2011-12, with a healthy Mark Streit and Kyle Okposo in the lineup from day one?
My guess is that they'll be very good.
Comments are welcome.
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