The Canucks, who themselves have been struggling mightily as of late, at 2-7-1 in their previous 10 before last night, got on top early with a Christopher Higgins goal just over four minutes into the game.
It was a crucial start for John Tortorella’s free-falling squad, as the got the crowd into it, and fed off the energy to take a 3-0 lead after two.
The way things have gone for the Isles of late, it seemed as though the third period would be just another third period playing for pride, rather than a chance to win.
However, that would not be the case. What followed was a record-tying performance, the likes of which Islanders fans haven’t seen since Animal House was the #1 new movie of the year.
Just when all hope seemed lost, the Islanders would turn another crushing loss, into one of the greatest wins of the year. Just 1:13 into the third, Josh Bailey wristed one past Eddie Lack on the powerplay to close the gap to 3-1.
From there, the Isles would take off. The youngsters stepped up with goals from Ryan Strome (5-on-3) and Calvin de Haan on the PP just 22 seconds apart, the 3rd of the year for both, in order to tie up the game, and stun the home crowd at Rogers Arena.
But it wouldn’t stop there. Goals by Frans Nielsen (20), Matt Martin (5), Anders Lee (5), and an empty netter for Cal Clutterbuck (8) would seal the deal, and earn the Islanders their first 7 goal period since November, 1978.
The comeback not only was a historical feat for the organization, but was also a major lift for a team that has suffered from an immensely disappointing season, and has had to cope without on- and off-ice leader John Tavares throughout the home stretch.
It was certainly a major boost, at a time when many within the organization haven’t had much to be happy about lately.
What this win means
This type of win couldn’t have come at a better time for the Islanders or their fans. Sure, the Canucks have been sputtering of late, but that doesn’t change the magnitude of the victory from New York’s point of view.
Instead of rolling over and letting the game get out of hand, which the Isles could have done (and have done at certain points this year), they showed the resiliency and intensity that reminded Isles fans of why they were so excited about the future of this franchise during last year’s playoff run.
The team that showed up last night in the third period looked a lot like the team that reached the post-season for the first time in 6 years in 2013; a team who was willing to put everything on the line, and a team that had something to prove.
The best part of last night’s win? Their offensive explosion came without Tavares. This proved to not only the fans, but also the team that they can be a potent offensive powerhouse even when #91 can’t add his incredible talents to the mix.
The Islanders have needed a boost very badly. After a sub-par season with heightened expectations, losing Matt Moulson and ultimately his replacement Thomas Vanek to trades, which (what many feel) left them with not enough in return when all was said and done, this team needed a spark to remind the hockey world why they could become a force in the Eastern Conference within the next few years.
Players like Strome, de Haan, and Lee chipping in with key goals at key times, gave the young guns even more valuable experience, and showcased what the team’s offense could look like once these players develop into the full-time NHLers that they are expected to be.
Strome, especially, has been a force while in Bridgeport this year, topping the scoring leaderboards and proving his worth in the AHL. That play has translated to his time in the NHL, where his increased ice time and opportunities have already allowed him to get his feet wet, and show that he is more than capable of bringing that offensive firepower to the big club.
And that time may not be too far away.
Here Comes the Sun
So while the Isles have had a largely disappointing year, and have not reached the expectations set forth after the foundation became settled last year, there are still brighter days ahead for this hockey club.
Last night’s third period performance showed just how scary the Islanders could potentially be no matter who the opponent, or where the game is being played.
While there is still much work to be done when July 1st hits this summer in terms of rebuilding the back end, and solidifying the presence between the pipes, the pieces are there.
Now it’s just time to put the puzzle together.
Stick around ladies and gentleman, the dawn is coming, and when it does, the days will be bright for the up-and-coming New York Islanders.