ST. LOUIS -- If there was a signature play in the Islanders' 3-1 win in Winnipeg Tuesday night, it probably was not Matt Moulson's tide-turning tying goal or even P.A. Parenteau's go-ahead goal early in the third period. The moment that had "Islanders" written all over it was the headfirst lunge that Andrew MacDonald made to knock the puck away from the Jets and out of the zone during a third-period penalty kill.
The defenseman grinned through a slightly bloody lip when he was asked about it later. "Just a desperate play. The puck squirted out high and they had some guys going toward it," he said. "Our penalty kill has been pretty solid this season. I think it's a commitment from guys, doing whatever it takes. It was an opportunity, I took a chance, and luckily it got down the ice."
It was emblematic, precisely the kind of effort that has kept the Islanders in the playoff hunt, the kind of play that has allowed them to win four straight road games and six of their past seven away from the Coliseum. It is what will need Thursday night against the Blues, who are 24-3-4 at home and 11-0-2 overall against the East.
MacDonald's play was not an "embellishment" -- the official name for a two-minute minor on Parenteau for taking a dive. The earnest daredevil dive by MacDonald was an intrinsic part of what John Tavares said the Islanders need: "Dig down and find that extra effort you may not know that you have." Except that everyone knows MacDonald always plays like that, and he plays a lot. The team is 14-6-4 when he leads them in ice time, as he did Tuesday with 23:54. The split second that it took to knock the puck away was most telling.
"That defines him," coach Jack Capuano said. "I've seen it from him for many years now -- the desperation in his game, the willingness to lay down and block shots and use a real good, active stick. It was a key play for us."
Clearly, the Islanders will not overwhelm teams with offensive depth. They have to make big plays on defense, plays that tend to stand out in close, tense road games. "It's fun to be in those moments, those situations," MacDonald said. "That's what we have to thrive on."
P.A. hoping to stay. Parenteau's agent, Allan Walsh, tweeted that the forward is "highly motivated" to remain with the Islanders because they gave him his "first real opportunity to thrive in the NHL." But he went on to say that Parenteau will not talk contract until after the season, adding, "Now is the time to play hockey."