If the past two games are a harbinger of things to come, the Islanders should be very, very excited for 2011.
With their exciting 4-3 overtime victory over the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena last night, the Islanders have now beaten the top two teams in hockey to close out the last few days of 2010.
“It’s a great way to start the new year,” said P.A. Parenteau, who scored the overtime game-winner as well as the shootout clincher two nights prior for a thrilling 4-3 win over Pittsburgh.
With the Islanders on the power-play in overtime, Parenteau buried a beautiful pass from John Tavares with his one-timer from the left circle at 3:57.
Besides taking down the top two teams in each conference within 48 hours and winning 5 of their last six games, the Islanders had other reasons to celebrate when the ball dropped.
At age 41, Dwayne Roloson shows no sign of slowing down. The veteran netminder delivered a superb 38-save performance and led an inspired penalty-killing unit that was phenomenal in stopping a fearsome Detroit power play on five straight attempts last night.
Detroit entered last night’s game 6-for-8 on the power-play over the previous two games and had scored with the man-advantage in six straight games.
“It was a challenge. They were really hot coming in, but we stuck to our game plan. We sacrificed our bodies and that’s what the PK is all about,” said Zenon Konopka, who unrelenting hard work was rewarded last night.
Konopka went 13-for-20 from the faceoff circle and won a couple of key draws in the offensive zone that helped set up Islanders goals.
“He was as much as a star as Roli was tonight,” Parenteau said. “A lot of times he goes under the radar, but he didn’t tonight.”
With the game tied at 1, Konopka won a faceoff and John Tavares backhanded a loose puck that fluttered past Detroit goaltender Jimmy Howard at 19:57.
Scoring on two out of only four shots on goal the first period, The Islanders were lucky to ride a 2-1 lead into the second.
The Islanders didn’t even register their first even-strength shot until 18:26 into the period, but then pulled ahead with a goal just before time expired.
But once again, Roloson to the rescue.
“Roli was unbelievable,” Konopka said. “He kept us in it when it could’ve gone south pretty early.
The Islanders stellar first-period penalty-killing effort continued in the second, bolstered by a bundle of beautiful saves from Roloson, who denied Niklas Kronwall’s blistering shot from the slot with four seconds left on Detroit’s 3rd failed power-play attempt.
“It was remarkable,” Parenteau said. “It’s like he gets better with age.”
Bridgeport call-up Jesse Joensuu, who replaced enforcer Trevor Gillies in the lineup, tipped Milan Jurcina’s shot to give the Islanders a two-goal lead at 15:13. Konopka once again delivered a crucial faceoff win to set up the play.
But with 8.4 seconds left to play, Valterri Filppula roofed the puck past a sprawling Roloson to pull Detroit within a goal, although it appeared veteran defenseman Todd Bertuzzi should’ve been whistled for goaltender interference.
The Islanders saw their lead evaporate altogether midway through the third when Tomas Tatar scored his first NHL goal on a deflection to tie the game at 10:19.
But the penalty kill came through when it mattered most, denying Detroit while they were up a man less than a minute into overtime. And then the Islanders power-play reciprocated the favor, converting with the man-advantage for the game-winner.
“Our special teams were excellent tonight,” head coach Jack Capuano said.