The New York Islanders started slow, but found a way to win on Tuesday night, downing the Vancouver Canucks 3-2 at Rogers Arena.
Thomas Hickey had a goal and an assist – including the game-winner with 7:05 to play in the third period – while Thomas Greiss stopped 31-of-33 shots for the win. The two Thomas’ played a crucial role in getting the Islanders past a rocky start and back into the win column for the fourth time in five games.
“It wasn’t a good hockey game for us, but the positive thing is that we win it,” Hickey said. “To a man, I think we all understand that isn’t going to win too many hockey games. Our goalie sort of bailed us out there and we got lucky.”
The first half of Tuesday’s game was characterized by what didn’t happen, rather than what did. The teams combined for only eight shots in the first period, with the Islanders getting outshot 6-2.
Despite the low shot totals, the game was tied 1-1 after 20 minutes. Travis Hamonic scored on the Islanders’ first shot, sneaking his drive through Cal Clutterbuck’s screen, off Canucks’ defenseman Dan Hamhuis and past Jacob Markstrom at 4:20. Linden Vey tied it with a power-play goal at 10:42, collecting a blocked shot in the slot and sweeping it past Greiss.
The start of the second period unfolded in much of the same way for the Islanders, who only had five shots by the halfway point in the game. Hamonic gave the sleepy game a jolt, dropping the gloves with Emerson Etem at 7:33. That set off a sequence that saw Brock Nelson and Daniel Sedin get physical, Derek Dorsett challenge Nelson to a fight and eventually tussle with Matt Martin.
“It was a little gritty, but at this point in the year when both teams need them it’s going to get like that,” Anders Lee said.
The physical play both alleviated the tension – carried over from a chippy affair in Brooklyn that left Henrik Sedin injured – and opened up the game. The back half of the period saw the teams trade two-on-ones and the Islanders take a 2-1 lead on Lee’s 10th of the season at 14:29 of the second. Hickey’s point shot deflected off Lee’s stick, then Ben Hutton’s skate and just crossed the line before Markstrom scooped it out.
“I saw Thomas up top and he made a great play,” Lee said. “He put the puck on net, I got a stick on it and good things happened.”
That realization prompted the Islanders to start shooting more pucks. They had six in the back half of the second period, one more than they had in the first half of the game.
We didn’t generate much in the first period for whatever reason,” Jack Capuano said. “We found a way in the second half of the game. Two points is two points.”
The Canucks made a push at the start of the third period, but Greiss came up with three big stops to preserve the Islanders' 2-1 lead. Greiss’ best save was on Sven Baertschi, laying out and robbing the Canucks’ forward with the paddle.
“He was excellent, he was our best player tonight,” Hickey said of Greiss. “I don’t know how many of those goalmouth scrambles we had and he just makes himself really big. He spreads out and takes away those stuffs. We owe this one to him.”
Greiss was beat by Daniel Sedin from a sharp angle at 10:52, but Hickey answered for the Islanders two minutes later, as his slap shot deflected off of Chris Tanev’s stick and past Markstom at 12:55. From there, the Islanders clamped down, holding the Canucks at bay the rest of the way.
The win improved the Islanders to 4-1 on their current seven-game road trip. The two points also created some breathing room between them and the Pittsburgh Penguins, as the Islanders went up three points in the standings with a game in hand.
The road trip continues on Thursday night in Winnipeg. Puck drop is at 8 p.m. eastern.
NOTES: With an assist on Hamonic’s goal, Casey Cizikas extended his point streak to five games (2G, 3A). Cizikas has nine points (3G, 6A) in his last nine games.