The resurgent and talented Islanders are the best team in the East, and they showed it in this game, using their speed and tenacity and a bit of puck luck to dominate the Predators.
Brian Strait, Johnny Boychuk, and John Tavares scored in the first period before Filip Forsberg was able to score late in the period to make it 3-1.
James Neal notched his 21st goal of the season in the second period to make it 3-2 going into the third.
The wheels came off for the Predators as Nick Leddy scored off a rush and Roman Josi tried to clear a rebound and banged it off Pekka Rinne's pads and into the goal to make it 5-2 Islanders. Josh Bailey had taken the shot and was credited with the goal.
Jaroslav Halak had a fairly easy night, stopping 30 of the 32 shots he faced.
By contrast, Pekka Rinne was under siege for most of the night as the Isles got an abundance of quality scoring chances as the Predators defense was spotty at best.
Thankfully for the Predators, the Islanders didn't score again and make it worse.
- Nice gesture by the team to let Anthony Bitetto lead the team on the ice for the pre-skate. Bitetto is a native of Island Park, NY and had family in attendance.
- The Islanders had significantly more jump than the Predators in the first period and that set the tone for the game. Rinne was under assault with some quality scoring chances by the Islanders and if he had not made some good saves, the score could have been much worse.
- Filip Forsberg gave the Predators some life in the first period, recording his 20th goal of the season with an Isles defender hanging all over him. We have all marveled at his skill set, but an underrated aspect of his game is his strength. He is surprisingly strong and very hard to knock off the puck.
- Eric Nystrom leveled Mikhail Grabovski with a booming hit in the first period. Nystrom caught Grabovski with his head down and planted his shoulder in the chest of the Isles forward. Grabovski was rattled by the hit and hit his head on the ice when he fell. Scary moment off a clean hit as Grabovsky didn't move for quite a while. The stretcher was called, but eventually Grabovsky got to his feet and skated to the locker room. Hopefully he did not sustain a serious injury. No penalty was called on Nystrom on the play.
- James Neal just has a wickedly good release on his shot. He displayed that release on a rocket for his 21st goal of the year.
- Lines were juggled as Forsberg was reunited with Craig Smith and joined by Mike Fisher on the top line. Forsberg needs dynamic and creative line mates and frankly, I don't think he had them with Beck and Jarnkrok. Mike Ribeiro dropped down to the second kline to center James Neal and Colin Wilson.
- Uncharacteristic turnovers and defensive breakdowns hung Pekka Rinne out to dry. The Isles got numerous uncontested shots from the slot and quality chances off the rush. Rinne would have had to been perfect to stop the onslaught from the Isles. He wasn't and he got very little help from the team in front of him.
- The Islanders did a great job of winning most of the puck battles and throttling the Predators rush through the neutral zone. The offense never seemed to find its rhythm and get in gear. This has been a problem for this team at times this season and is one that will have to be corrected.
- The Predators had 17 shots on net in the first period. After that, they had 8 in the second and 7 in the third. They were outworked and outhustled by the Islanders in the final 40 minutes, and that is reflected in the score. by contrast, the Islanders consistently brought offensive pressure, netting 40 shots on Rinne.
- Cody Franson and Mike Santorelli have cleared their paperwork and should be in the line up for Saturday's game.
If this is a measuring stick game, the Predators came up woefully short.
If this is a learning experience, then it will be good for the Predators.
Time to get back on the horse on Saturday against the Flyers.
My three stars:
1. John Tavares
2. Nick Leddy
3. James Neal