You know, these late game recaps have been becoming somewhat of a trend for me – this time I have a really good excuse though. Last night, blogger extraordinaire BD Gallof invited myself, my fiancée and the rest of the Blog Box and their significant others to his place for a get together. It was a chance to get to know everyone and talk about some of the things we wouldn’t really get to talk about while at the game. In reality, we talked more about hockey than anything else – as one of the other guests there was none other than Newsday’s Greg Logan and his wife.
Thursday night the New York Islanders took on a slumping, Hossa-less Atlanta Thrashers team. It was a game in which the Islanders really needed to win, being on the outside of the playoff bubble but very close to being in the 8th seed. The first period was awfully similar to the game in which the Islanders beat the Thrashers and limited them to only 10 shots on goal. The Thrashers were sloppy in their own end; Lehtonen looked extremely uncomfortable and often misplayed the puck. The Islanders would get on the board first at the 9:15 mark of the first period. Newly acquired defenseman Rob Davison would find a streaking Mike Comrie and hit him with a perfect pass that Comrie took right to the net. Lehtonen couldn’t control the rebound and it would eventually cross over the line. Two minutes later, Trent Hunter would continue his solid work along the end boards and dug the puck out finding big Josef Vasicek coming in alone; he made a nifty forehand backhand move and put the puck in the open side for a 2-0 lead.
The second period brought more of what we saw in the first, sloppy play by the Thrashers that allowed the Islanders to keep pressure down low. Although in this period the Islanders were penalized a few times, as were the Thrashers which gave both teams very little time on the power play as the penalties often offset one another. At 1:02 of the second period, Bill Guerin would work the puck down low to Bryan Berard sneaking in down low who fed Andy Hilbert with a cross ice pass for a beauty of a finish. The thrill of a 3-0 lead wouldn’t last however, as Berard would mishandle the puck on a power play and be forced to take down Eric Perrin on a shorthanded breakaway. Naturally, Perrin was awarded a penalty shot and he made a spectacular move to make the score 3-1. This gave the Thrashers momentum unfortunately and they would keep pressure on the Islanders for the remainder of the period. In fact, they would eventually tie the game on goals by Ken Klee and Alexei Zhitnik – who in all honestly should not have scored. DiPietro should have stopped Klee’s point shot, he had full view of his windup and shot from the blue line but it beat him between his legs. The shot by Zhitnik was a little tougher, but somehow it looked harmless until it beat DiPietro under his glove – either way they moved into the third period deadlocked at 3 goals a piece.
Once the third began, the Islanders once again brought pressure and good puck movement to the Thrashers who continued sloppy play in their own end. At 3:17, Berard would find Comrie who would beat his man and then Lehtonen for his second goal of the game to make it 4-3. The Isles did a really good job of limiting shots on goal and kept the pressure on Atlanta, but with just over a minute and a half remaining, what seemed like another harmless shot by Bobby Holik beat DiPietro through his five hole and tied the game at 4. After watching the replays, it appeared DiPietro was slightly screened by Davison who also caused a deflection off his skate. The game was heading to overtime.
While I was watching the start of overtime, I had nervous fears that a game the Islanders had to win would end up the same way it did against Dallas earlier in the season – a loss in overtime as soon as the extra frame began. What I wasn’t expecting, was more solid play by the Islanders and less than stellar play by Atlanta’s defense. Just over one minute into overtime, Vasicek would lose an important offensive zone face off, but beat the defender into the corner with his super stretch reach to get the puck. Hunter bolted to the front of the net and called for the puck, Vasicek dished off the puck to Hunter who beat Lehtonen under his glove sealing the game for the Islanders.
In the post game press conference, Islanders coach Ted Nolan was livid about the teams play on the power play – calling it more of an advantage for the opposition then their own team. He was happy however that his team managed to win and secure two extremely valuable points. Greg Logan would press Nolan on DiPietro’s play, and it would seem that he was letting on to an injury to the prized goaltender. Greg would later post on his blog that DiPietro wasn’t injured, but would likely sit out a game this weekend do to a death in the family. I could see how that would affect someone’s focus and play on the ice, so I give DP a pass for the evening.
Two points are two points, but I really wanted the Islanders to keep up their strong play for the entire game for once, maybe they were saving their strength for this weekend’s pair of back to back matinee games that feature Fan Appreciation night and the Core of the Four celebration?