Islanders' penalty-killing strategy: Don't take them
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One way to kill penalties is to kill them. Eliminate 'em. Make 'em disappear.
Tuesday night, the Islanders nicely pulled off that caper, staying almost entirely away from the sin bin during their 3-1 victory over the Nashville Predators, and that soothed their recent penalty-killing blues.
Not until Casey Cizikas was whistled for roughing Nashville's Patric Hornqvist at 10:35 of the second period did the Islanders have to play shorthanded, and Nashville's only other power play came in the final 2:20 on Aaron Ness' hold.
By the time of Cizikas' penalty, the Islanders had their three-goal lead and appeared liberated from the whole what's-wrong-with-the-penalty-kill conversation.
They had given up eight power-play goals -- half of their season total -- on their just-completed four-game road trip, and fell to last among the league's 30 teams in penalty-kill success. But coach Jack Capuano concluded before the game that he was "not going to keep talking about special teams. I just want to forget about it. We were top 10 in the league at the start of the year, and whatever happened, it's in the past."
The team's unsurprising Rx for its man-down malaise was "just stay positive and continue to work hard," Andrew MacDonald said. "And work smart. You don't want to just work hard and work stupid. There's obviously the mind-set of being smart, as well."
Get in the shooting lanes, read the opposition, anticipate. "Sacrifice yourself," MacDonald said. "Get in front of shots."
When Nashville at last got its power play, the Islanders managed to surround the guys who had them outnumbered.
Michael Grabner twice broke up Nashville passes. Frans Nielsen burned time with a forecheck. Thomas Hickey cleared the zone. Matt Carkner sprang Grabner on a two-on-one that led to Nielsen's narrow miss. And goalie Kevin Poulin made a clean save on the only Nashville shot during their advantage.
"If you keep asking questions , maybe it's tough to forget about it," Travis Hamonic said. "If you're asking me if it's in our head, it's not.
"I'm not making excuses, but some people don't realize there are some good players on the other side of the ice and they're going to make plays. But you can't keep looking at the past."