The Isles were down early against a struggling Ottawa Senators team last night. Sure, they were under .500 going into the game, but you cannot undermine the power of Heatley, Spezza, and Alfredsson. The early lead had many pundering how bad this game could get, but then the impossible happened...
A "stale" Kyle Okposo, (as described by head coach Scott Gordon), newly paired with rookie center Josh Bailey, scored his second goal of the season after a nice one timer feed came across the slot. It was a relief for KO to get back on the score sheet, and definitely a thrill for Bailey to get his first NHL point. Hunter's unassisted goal in the second gave the Isles the lead - and better yet, it was on the power play.
Things were looking good going into the third period, but if there is anything we can say we've learned from this team is that no lead is safe with the final 20 minutes looming as a recipe for disaster. We've seen it too many times to blindly feel confident that the game could end in a joyous conclusion...but low and behold Bill Guerin notching his 6th goal of the year, giving the Isles some breathing room now with a 3-1 lead after a nice play orchestrated by Weight and Bergenheim - didn't I tell you these two looked good together?
It was a bit of a shocker. Instead of giving up the lead we improved on it! I saw that the Isles played a better, well-rounded in game in Phili but just couldn't get any shots past Biron. This time the Isles were capitalizing on their opportunities and were able to hold on for the win. Keep in mind the Isles had to kill off a five minute major penalty assessed to Pock in the final 4 1/2 minutes or so. Luckily Joey Mac stood on his head in those closing minutes, continuing to prove the summer time non-believers that he is a very capable back-up.
We may have seen a glimpse as what is to come from the pairing of Bailey and Okposo. You have to figure Snow and Gordon envision these two as our future first line. Besides that goal I noticed a few shifts where they generated chances in front of the net as well. It's only two games in, but you know Bailey wants to stay here with the big club. If he can continue to contribute he may very well make it difficult for Gordon to make a decision.
All in all, the Isles finally played a full 60 minute hockey game and were able to hold off a resilient come back by the heavily talented Ottawa Senators. More importantly, the kids were making solid contributions to ensure the win. Bailey, Okposo, Bergenheim, and Campoli all registered points last night.
The Isles will face the Sens this Saturday night for the second game of a home-and-home series. You have to figure they are incredibly disappointed with the way they played; they're going to come out hungry.
The Isles, although a work in progress, are stepping in the right direction and hopefully can continue to do so in the Saturday night rematch.