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MacDonald, Islanders race past reeling Blues

by John Kreiser
UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Andrew MacDonald caught the St. Louis Blues going the wrong way. So did the rest of the New York Islanders.

The second-year defenseman had the first two-goal game of his NHL career Saturday as the improving Islanders knocked off the reeling Blues 5-2, dealing another blow to St. Louis' fading playoff hopes.

MacDonald's first goal, a screened slapper from the point in the second period, was the type a defensive-minded defenseman scores a few times a season. The second goal definitely was not.
With his team leading 3-1, MacDonald blocked a shot by Blues center Andy McDonald at the Isles' blue line, raced in alone and roofed a wrister at 6:22.

"I wouldn't expect that to happen too often," MacDonald said after matching his season total for goals in less than 14 minutes of playing time. "It's nice to put some goals up on the board, but the most important thing is that we got two points."

Scoring on a breakaway generally isn't part of MacDonald's job description.

"I think, honestly, that was the first breakaway in my life," 24-year-old defenseman said with a smile. "I knew there was a guy coming from my right. As I pushed the puck, I saw high glove was there, and I just tried to get the shot off without stickhandling."

MacDonald nearly had a third goal, but his power-play slapper in the final minutes hit the post.

"I'm pretty happy with two goals," MacDonald said. "Obviously, the hat trick would have been nice, but two goals is more than plenty."

 Happy was about the last thing Blues coach Davis Payne was after his team's seventh loss in eight games. St. Louis is 13th in the West with 65 points and began the day 10 points out of a playoff berth in the Western Conference.

"Lack of discipline," he said when asked about a plethora of odd-man rushes by the Islanders. "We have to go back to the drawing board as a group and make sure it's addressed again. We'll hammer it home."

Payne said the slump isn't attributable to one single problem.

"It's a bunch of things," he said. "Our positional discipline and discipline with the puck are two major factors. It's a matter of the right players putting out the right kind of effort, and we didn't get that tonight."

John Tavares had a goal and an assist in the first period for the Isles, who've won back-to-back games after losing four in a row. Tavares matched his goal total for his rookie season by scoring his 24th at 9:12 of the opening period. The assist gave him 55 points, one more than the top pick in the 2009 Entry Draft had in his first NHL season.

Al Montoya, acquired from Phoenix three weeks ago after injuries decimated the Isles' goaltending corps, stopped 21 shots. He's now 5-2-1 since coming to New York. Michael Grabner added an insurance goal with 7:35 remaining as the Isles improved to 21-21-6 under interim coach Jack Capuano, who replaced Scott Gordon on Nov. 15. New York is 20-14-4 in its last 38 games.

"The guys have just been playing well," Capuano said. "As a coach, you try to implement the system you think is right, and during the course of a game, you try to adjust. I think as a coaching staff we've done that, but a lot of the credit has to go to the players -- they're the ones who have to work hard and pay the price."

The Islanders had two glorious chances a half-minute apart early in the first period. After Bishop robbed Kyle Okposo on a 2-on-1 break 4:22 into the game, the 6-foot-7 rookie got a break after he guessed wrong trying to play a puck dumped down the right wing. Parenteau got there first and stepped around Bishop, but missed the wide-open net from the right circle on what should have been an easy goal.

However, the Isles did get on the board just more than four minutes later on a spectacular play by Tavares, who took a pass from Parenteau in the high slot, deked past T.J. Oshie, slipped between the defense and flung a backhander past Bishop at 9:12 for his 24th of the season, matching his total for his rookie season.

"PA made a heck of a play protecting the puck, fed it through a couple of sticks and I just went around the guy -- I think he thought I was going to shoot. I made a move around him, and was lucky to tuck it in," Tavares said.

Said MacDonald: "He's not the No. 1 overall pick for no reason."

Payne, unhappy with what he was seeing, called his timeout before the puck could be dropped.

"There wasn't enough intensity in our battle. We weren't making the right reads, as far as being on the right side of the puck," he said. "They were skating. They were moving past us. We were allowing them to skate and stickhandle right through us. It was unacceptable, but it didn't stop there."

Parenteau atoned for his earlier miss by finishing off a 2-on-1 break with 50.1 seconds remaining in the period for a 2-0 lead. Tavares broke up a pass at center and sprung Grabner down the left wing. Grabner rifled a pass to the onrushing Parenteau, who slammed it past Bishop for his first goal in 11 games.

A good forecheck by the Islanders led to a 3-0 lead. Josh Bailey worked the puck free and fed Matt Martin, who slipped a pass to MacDonald at the left point. MacDonald's slapper sailed past a slew of bodies and off the post into the net at 12:49.

Bishop kept his team in the game by stopping breakaways by Grabner and Matt Moulson in the first minute of the third period before Andy McDonald spoiled Montoya's shutout bid with a wrister from just above the left faceoff dot to finish a 3-on-2 rush.

Andrew MacDonald's second goal became much bigger when Chris Stewart banged in a power-play rebound at 10:18 to cut the deficit back to two goals. It was Stewart's seventh in nine games since coming to the Blues in a trade with Colorado. But Grabner iced it with his rookie-leading 26th of the season, beating Bishop with a wrister after breaking around Alex Pietrangelo at the St. Louis blue line.

The Isles get another test Sunday when the New Jersey Devils come to the Nassau Coliseum with a 19-2-2 mark in their last 23 games.

"We just want to keep what we've got going," Tavares said. "Tomorrow is a huge game for us, with the roll that team's been on."

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