There were some easy paths to frustration and woe early in last night’s game for the Islanders.
They had two power plays in the opening 4:43 of the game against a Senators team that played one night earlier and is headed for the draft lottery. Those four minutes produced two shots on goal and a handful of attempts that banked off skates and harmlessly aside, continuing the Isles’ futility that had them scoring only three goals in their previous three games, all regulation losses.
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But a few highlight-reel saves by rookie goaltender J-F Berube kept the game scoreless. And a few good plays and good bounces got the Isles three goals in the second period, ending their offensive woes in quick fashion. They also ended their four-game slide (0-3-1) with a 3-1 win, pulling the Islanders back within a point of the Penguins for third in the Metropolitan Division and four points clear of the Flyers and Red Wings in the chase for the last Eastern Conference playoff spot.
“You can’t get discouraged,” said John Tavares, who shook off a couple of fanned attempts through the first 25 minutes of last night’s game to sweep home a rebound of Josh Bailey’s shot and open the scoring at 5:24 of the second. “Sometimes guys get in the way of shots and that’s the way it’s been going for us lately. For me, you just try to focus on the next shift.”
Matt Martin deflected Travis Hamonic’s point shot past Andrew Hammond for a 2-0 lead at 14:28 of the second and Brock Nelson converted a nifty pass from former Senator Shane Prince just 21 seconds later to extend the lead. The Islanders hadn’t led in any game since Cal Clutterbuck capped their late comeback win over the Panthers on March 14, five games ago.
“We just have to fight through that mentally,” coach Jack Capuano said. “Our power plays early were not very good but I thought we came back in the second and third and played pretty well.”
They might have sagged if not for Berube, the 24-year-old who impressed yet again in only his fourth start this season. He made a nice toe save on Alex Chiasson on a Senators rush shortly after the Isles’ power plays had ended, then Berube spun around and dove to snare Mark Stone’s backhand try to keep the fluttering puck away from the goal line.
“To be honest, I think it was going wide there,” Berube said after his 21-save performance, though the sports highlight shows may not care to know the exact trajectory of Stone’s shot. “I was just tracking the puck as good as I could.”
Berube, whose shutout bid was spoiled by Stone 6:24 into the third, will get another shot in net this weekend, with the Isles playing back-to-back road games against the Lightning and Hurricanes.. If he can spark the team the way he did last night,, there may be more than just spot duty for him in the final 10 games of the regular season..
“I said it the last time he played (a 2-1 shootout loss to the Penguins on March 15), he’s been real good,” Hamonic said. “He’s stayed sharp, he challenges himself in practice, he challenges his teammates. He’s real vocal out there, too. He doesn’t carry himself like a guy who’s played as few games as he has.”