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Bolstered by blue-liners

by Dyan LeBourdais / New York Islanders
After falling behind by two goals to the Chicago Blackhawks, who came into the game with the league’s hottest offense, the Islanders showed resiliency and came back to earn a point in a 3-2 overtime loss at Nassau Coliseum. The Islanders are starting to get the secondary scoring they've drastically needed, with five of the team's last seven goals coming off the stick of players other than Matt Moulson, John Tavares or PA Parenteau. Defensemen Travis Hamonic notched his first goal of the 2011-12 season and Steve Staios’ point shot led to Michael Grabner’s tip-in goal around the crease.

“They played D-zone coverage pretty well and we found the seam on both goals to the weak side defense, one with Travis (Hamonic) and one with Stevie (Staios),” Islanders Head Coach Jack Capuano said. “When you get pucks to the net and bodies to the net, good things happen.”

The Isles defense shut down Jonathan Toews, limiting the prolific goal scorer to just one shot on net, consequently putting an end to his three-game point streak.

Travis Hamonic tries to bat the puck away from a charging Marian Hossa at Nassau Coliseum on December 8, 2011 in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Mike Stobe/NHLI via Getty Images)
Capuano added, “I thought both sides, the defense played well tonight… Their D are great in transition, they get up the ice, they beat us up the ice a few times and Al (Montoya) was there to shut the door for us.”

The Isles netminder made 25 saves in 61:34 of play, including five saves on Marian Hossa and four on Dave Bolland.

“Al was great for us again,” Staios said of Montoya. “We did our best to limit their opportunities and keep them to the outside, but he still had to make some big saves for us. I think overall, we were strong defensively. We always want to be rock solid back there and against a team like that, I feel like we out-chanced them tonight.”

But it was the goal from Hamonic and setup from Staios that helped the Islanders earn a point and increased the defense point total this season to 31. Twenty-five games into the season, the Islanders defensemen had scored a combined five goals, with two from captain Mark Streit, and one each from Andrew MacDonald, Milan Jurcina and Dylan Reese.

“We haven’t been scoring from the back end as much as maybe we could,” Staios said. “You have to get involved in the rush, get involved in the play and do our best. We made a conscious effort to shoot pucks tonight. We got some traffic in front and fortunately we got a couple points.”

Hamonic, who played 22:24, finished with four hits and two blocked shots, said scoring his first of the season is something he expects to contribute, to help with secondary scoring.

“I try to help a lot offensively and maybe this season I haven’t been chipping in like I usually do or I have in the past at this point in the season, but maybe this is a bit of a monkey off my back. Now that I’ve got my first one, hopefully more start going in.”

Goaltender Al Montoyamakes a pad save off of Andrew Brunette at Nassau Coliseum on December 8, 2011. (Photo by Mike Stobe/NHLI via Getty Images)
Both Hamonic and Staios’ shots were rockets from the blue line.

“We are trying to make an effort of doing that,” Staios said. “Earlier in the season we were looking for sticks, shot tips and I think Hammer (Hamonic) led the way and bombed one in. I think we realized we can get them in from there. Our forwards are working very hard for us to get to the front of the net, so that’s what we are trying to do.”

The Islanders elevated their current point streak to 4-0-2 over the last six games, earning 10 of a possible 12 points.

“(Chicago is) a good team,” Montoya said. “But we’re showing we’re right there with everybody, so we raise our game every single time. We see where we’re at and it’s a good building block.”

Notes: Patrick Sharp scored in overtime to lead the Blackhawks over the Islanders, 3-2. His first of the night put the Hawks ahead of the Isles 2-0 at 2:23 of the second period. Marian Hossa scored the first goal on the power play at 11:42. Sharp and Hossa each had three point nights.

“They’ve got two of the best players on the ice there, so they took off; it’s a four-on-four and they took off two-on-one,” Montoya said of Sharp’s OT goal. “Hossa made a good fake, looks like he’s going to pass, throws it off the pad and Sharp was right there. It’s a picture perfect goal.”

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