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The recap: Isles beat Canadiens, 4-3
A win's a win. Not the prettiest, but the Isles got their second win in 12 games. Some notes:
-- John Tavares was the best player on the ice by a long, long way tonight. He had one assist, on Matt Moulson's key goal to make it 4-2 late in the second, but Tavares was everywhere, pouncing on loose pucks and outworking every Canadien he came in contact with. Jack Capuano showed his faith in Tavares by sending him out in the final three minutes with a one-goal lead, and the makeshift line with Tavares, Matt Martin and Jay Pandolfo ragged some serious time off the clock in the Montreal zone.
Tavares hasn't scored a goal in five games, but he has four assists and is a plus-1 over that stretch. Shows he hasn't hung his head despite not scoring the way he did when the season began.
-- Pandolfo earned first star (I had him second, behind Tavares), and the cagey veteran had his best game as an Islander. The goal, his 100th career -- the gap between 99 and 100 was 21 months and 12 days -- was a nice reward, but it was his penalty killing and shot blocking that really stood out.
Fans don't want to hear it, I think, but Pandolfo is a needed forward on this team. The failures of the more talented core players make his lack of offensive skill more noticeable, but that's not what he's there for. What he does is make the little plays and put himself in the right spots, and he did that well tonight. So did his linemates, Martin and Josh Bailey.
-- Frans Nielsen and Nino Niederreiter had key blocked shots late. Niederreiter has looked very strong on the puck and shown some creativity at times, but most important, he's been physical and not shied away from traffic or contact. The Isles need him in there.
-- A bad night for Mike Mottau, with two glaring errors on the first two Canadiens goals, but Capuano made the decisive in-game move in sitting Mottau down for the entire third. The other five Isles D did a solid job.
-- Evgeni Nabokov went off in a lot of pain with his groin injury. It's only speculation right now, but this is not a day-to-day injury for a 36-year-old goaltender. This may smooth out the Isles goaltending situation for a time and allow either DiPietro or Al Montoya to get consistent work.
Don't expect the Isles to call anyone up if Nabokov is out a while. They have a spare forward and a spare D, so no need to call someone else up to go in and out of the lineup.