Valtteri Filppula scored the Islanders’ first goal of the season, Thomas Greiss stopped 45-of-46 shots in regulation, and the Isles beat the Carolina Hurricanes 2-1 in overtime for their first win of the season.
Mathew Barzal did an excellent job of drawing a tripping penalty to give the Isles a 1:52 man-advantage to start the overtime period, then found Josh Bailey for a sweet one-timer from the bottom of the circle for the game-winner.
Greiss Under Fire
Thomas Greiss was tested right out of the gates tonight. He faced 16 shots in the first period (the Islanders only got off seven), proving to be up to the task for the first 20 minutes of the year.
Things didn’t get much easier for Greiss in the second, taking pucks off his facemask and leaping across the net to make stops. He had 30 saves with a little over five minutes left in the period (finished the second with 31) and looked fantastic.
Greiss was simply showing off in the third, making stick and kick saves, morphing into Felix Potvin for a split-second at around 14 minutes of the third, throwing his blocker across the net to stop Aho on what should have been the game-tying one-time goal. Just spectacular.
Just 1:35 from a season-opening shutout, with an extra Carolina skater on, Jordan Staal put Carolina’s 44th shot of the night past Greiss. There was a brief review looking for goalie interference, but despite Butch Goring‘s protests from the booth, the goal stood.
To be honest, his performance tonight was as good as I’ve seen Greiss play since 2016-17. If this turns into a viable, two-netminder system with Robin Lehner, and the defense can keep opposing teams under 70 shots attempted per game, this team could potentially be a fringe playoff contender.
Penalty Kill Steps Up in Season Debut
The Islanders had the worst penalty kill in the league last year (73.2 percent), and wasted no time getting started on a hopefully much-improved 2018-19 season when Mathew Barzal was called for a phantom high-sticking at 4:44 of the first period.
Cal Clutterbuck, Casey Cizikas, Adam Pelech, and Ryan Pulock got the call and looked to be a bit flustered in their first go-around but the Isles’ PK asserted themselves through another man-down situation in the second and really toughened up to negate a Luca Sbisa broken-stick penalty at 13:03 of the third.
Tanner Fritz is a ball of energy. He’s always moving, always on top of the puck. It’s almost as if he knows he has to keep his intensity and on-ice IQ at peak levels in order to keep his roster spot. Smart, if true.
Brock Nelson was playing aggressively. He found a lane at around 15 minutes of the first and put a wrist shot on net but was turned away by Mzarek. In my opinion, Nelson creating his own shots is when he’s at his best. Big guy, offensively gifted. Why not be a bulldog out there?
Bailey was in the middle of the action again toward the end of the first, stealing the puck and leading to two great looks on net from Luca Sbisa (went wide) and Johnny Boychuk, who was denied.
Cizikas found Clutterbuck on a nice looking one-timer from behind the net a few minutes into the second but it went high. Martin had his shot slide across the crease behind Mzarek later in the shift, but Sebastian Aho slid it out of the danger zone. I love this line.
Naturally, Valtteri Filppula scored the Islanders’ first goal of the season. Who had him in the pool?
Ryan Pulock made an outstanding play to take away the puck deep in his own zone a little over halfway through the second, helping keep the Isles’ 1-0 lead intact. He’s going to be an All-Star this season. Write that one down.
Cal Clutterbuck was all over the ice tonight and playing a fast, physical brand of hockey — a sorely missed trademark of his. He was practically silent through the second half of last season. We need him going full-bore. There’s some fuel left in that tank and a going-all-out Clutterbuck is an effective Clutterbuck.
Barzal found Beau for a great look on a 3-on-2 one-timer halfway through the third but Mzarek made a very nice save. Beauvillier had been a bit quiet up until that point.
Jordan Eberle played his rear off tonight. Really looks like he’s going to make a strong push to eclipse his 59 point total from last season.