There has been one overriding question asked about the Islanders. Is their goaltending good enough to help the team reach the Stanley Cup playoffs in an 82-game season?
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The question will continue to be asked, following a shaky performance by Evgeni Nabokov in the Islanders’ 5-4 overtime loss to the Canucks Tuesday night and head coach Jack Capuano's comments postgame.
“I'm not going to discuss the goaltending,” Capuano said when asked if he was troubled by the play in net.
But he later revealed backup Kevin Poulin would “get his chance shortly.“
“If he plays well, he's going to play more,” Capuano said.
While the season is still in its formative stages, the fact that Capuano hinted Poulin could take some starts away from Nabokov could portend a goaltending controversy.
“It’s a long season,” Nabokov said. “It’s a process. We have to continue to work hard.”
Last night, in a game that resembled a track meet, Nabokov allowed all five goals on 33 shots with the biggest being Brad Richardson’s game-winner with 2:44 left in overtime. Richardson drove to the net and shoveled Kevin Bieksa’s initial shot past Nabokov.
“I thought they were doing a pretty good job,” Nabokov said of the Canucks’ crease-crashing. “Sometimes it’s hard to move laterally with someone on top of you.”
Even with the loss, the Islanders earned a point. They trail Carolina by two points for second in the Metropolitan Division, but have lost five of six.
“Anytime you get a point in this league it’s big but [we] need to [find a way to] get the other point,” Matt Martin said. “We know we can play a lot better.”
That belief left the Islanders feeling frustrated, even though they generated enough offensively to win.
Brock Nelson opened the scoring 2:26 into the match by backhanding Peter Regin's rebound past Roberto Luongo for his first NHL goal.
A flurry around Luongo 2:15 after Nelson's goal saw Matt Moulson score his fourth of the season, and gave the Islanders a 2-0 advantage.
It didn't last.
Ryan Kesler halved the deficit six seconds after Moulson's goal, and Daniel Sedin drew the Canucks even at 9:09 with his third of the season. Sedin finished a 2-on-1 rush with Jannik Hansen with a shot from the left face-off circle.
The teams continued alternating goals in the second.
Moulson's second goal of the game — both coming on the power play — put the Islanders ahead, 4-3. The Islanders finished 2-for-4 with the man advantage, while killing both of Vancouver’s power plays.
The Islanders benefitted from Vancouver's newfound aggressiveness when Zack Kassian's apparent goal midway through the second period was waived off due to Mike Santorelli colliding with Nabokov.
But like the first period, they Islanders couldn’t grow their lead and it cost them when Henrik Sedin tied the game at 3-3 with 7:11 left in the second. The Canucks captain tapped in his brother's goalmouth feed for his third goal of the season.
The Sedins finished with three points (two goals and an assist) and a combined plus-5 rating.
Vancouver went into the second intermission with a 4-3 lead when Smithtown’s Chris Higgins shoved a Kevin Bieksa rebound past Nabokov with 18 seconds left in the period.
“To give up a goal with 15 seconds left is tough,” Nabokov said.
Frans Nielsen snapped a rebound of an Andrew MacDonald shot past Luongo with 1:12 left in regulation to tie the game at 4-4. Luongo finished with 28 saves.
Follow NHL beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman.