The New York Islanders scored four goals and got a boost from 1,100 fans imported from Quebec but found yet another way to lose, this time 5-4 to the Atlanta Thrashers. Atlanta scored four goals in the third period including a shorthanded goal off a faceoff by Bryan Little that put Atlanta ahead to stay.
The loss dropped the Islanders to 1-16-3 in their last 20 games and left the team struggling for answers that do not seem to come.
“The hard work is there, the effort is there, that’s the most frustrating part,” said a dejected Rick DiPietro after the game. “I feel like I want to throw up right now. That’s how the locker room feels and that’s how I feel. I don’t even know what to say.”
The Nassau Coliseum was noisy tonight, as a group calling itself Nordiques Nation brought 1,100 fans to Long Island to make clear their desire for the NHL to return to Quebec City 15 years after the Nordiques moved to Denver. They added plenty of energy to the building and raised the attendance to 10,056. The added energy definitely seemed to lift the Islanders.
“It was loud out there,” Matt Moulson said. “They like their hockey. It was loud.”
The Islanders held a 2-0 lead after a first period goal by Matt Martin and a goal by Matt Moulson early in the second period.
Atlanta slowly chipped away at the lead. Anthony Stewart scored late in the second period and Johnny Oduya picked up his first two tallies of the year just 1:18 apart early in the third to give Atlanta a 3-2 lead.
The Islanders didn’t quit, however. Rob Schremp tied the game at 3-3 at the 9:15 mark of the third period when he put home the rebound of a shot by Andrew MacDonald.
The game turned on Little’s spectacular goal at the 11:35 mark of the third period. With Dustin Byfuglien in the penalty box, Little was set to take a faceoff in the Islanders zone to the left of DiPietro. Little won the draw cleanly from Frans Nielsen and before the puck even hit the ice, quickly shot it past a stunned DiPietro who didn’t move until the puck was already behind him and in the net.
“I tried to make it seem like I was going back,” Little said. “I was trying to put it on net, to get a shot, and ended up getting a good bounce on it. I’ve tried it before, but you need to have a bit of luck to get it through. I kind of caught them off-guard, and their goalie really wasn’t paying attention.”
DiPietro was surprised on the play. “I don’t know,” he said. “I had my head down, getting set and when I picked my head up the puck was in the net.”
A goal credited to Alexander Burmistrov made it 5-3 Atlanta with just 5:44 left in the third period. Brent Sopel’s shot from the right point was deflected by Matt Moulson and bounced off Burmistrov and into the goal.
Blake Comeau scored the Islanders first power play goal in 47 tries with 1:16 remaining in the game, but the Isles couldn’t get the equalizer even after pulling DiPietro.
The Isles can’t seem to find an answer to their lengthy drought. “What are you going to do? Break sticks, slam doors, scream, yell?” asked Schremp, rhetorically. “I don’t know. It’s frustrating. We don’t like losing, nobody likes losing. We work so hard…we’re gelling as a team. We are even getting haircuts you would think would work. This is stupid. I don’t know why we aren’t winning. The effort is there.”
The Islanders return to action Monday night when they travel to Nashville to take on the Predators.
Doug Weight and Radek Martinek were scratched due to injury for the Islanders while Niclas Bergfors, Ben Eager and Freddy Meyer sat out for the Thrashers.
Prior to the game at a press conference regarding the visitors from Quebec, Isles GM Garth Snow reiterated that the Islanders would honor their lease at the Nassau Coliseum that expires at the end of the 2014-15 season but he added, “we’re not going to play one day longer than we have to in this arena.” Snow welcomed the fans from Quebec but reiterated that the Islanders have “the most passionate fans, great hockey fans.”
John Tavares dropped the gloves with Burmistrov with 5:01 left in the game. The Isles young center received an additional two minutes for slashing during the play.
The Islanders lost defenseman Mark Eaton to an undisclosed injury in the first period. Eaton played only four shifts in the game and the Islanders had to finish with just five defensemen.
Evander Kane was awarded a penalty shot with 5:48 left in the third period but he hit the post on a backhand attempt.