As he manned the point on a power play nearly 15 minutes into the second period Monday, Islanders defenseman Johnny Boychuk saw open ice in front of him.
The result was almost inevitable: a hard shot that ricocheted off Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard’s stick right to a charging Josh Bailey, who didn’t have to put much on his shot to give the Islanders a two-goal lead in their 4-1 victory.
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“I just wanted to get it on net. There was a shooting lane,” Boychuk said. “It was a good job by Josh getting to the net, getting the rebound. The goalie just kicked it right to him for an empty-netter.”StoryGreiss leads Isles to 4th straight home winColumnBest: Home-ice advantage grows in BrooklynStoryDe Haan leaves game with lower-body injury
It’s been that kind of run for the Islanders’ power play recently. It was the sixth straight game in which the Isles have scored with the man advantage. During that stretch, they've converted on 31.8 percent of their power-play opportunities, up from their 19.8 percent average on the season. They were 1-for-5 Monday.
“When the first unit moves it around and gets some shots, it always seems to either have chances or it goes in. We have to continue to do that,” Boychuk said. “With our unit, all we’re trying to do is get shots.”
The Islanders’ penalty kill did a solid job Monday, going 4-for-4. Entering the game, the Isles had the best penalty-kill percentage in their home games in the NHL, having allowed nine goals in 80 opportunities.
“To me, going into this game, just watching [Detroit’s] power play, it’s always been a problem for us,” Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. “With [Henrik] Zetterberg and [Pavel] Datsyuk and [Justin] Abdelkader and [Mike] Green, they’ve got a good power play. I thought the penalty kill challenged against them tonight really well, and to me, Thomas [Greiss], your goalie is always going to be your best penalty-killer. He was good for us.’’
Greiss saved all five shots he faced on the penalty kill, neutralizing a Detroit power play that had gone 2-for-4 in two previous games against the Islanders this season.
“It was huge,” Boychuk said of Greiss’ effort. “He’s a good goalie and we have to give him good lanes to see the puck — they have dangerous forwards. Clearing the puck down the ice helps as well.”
One of Boychuk’s clears sped toward the net so fast that Howard was forced to cover for a whistle.
It wasn’t the closest the Islanders would come to picking up their sixth shorthanded goal of the season (Nikolai Kulemin missed on a breakaway), but the message it sent — that the Isles special teams were not to be messed with — was clear.