In The End, Just 'Disappointed'
May 1, 2002
AS THE HORN SOUNDED, they took one last skate, surrounded goalie
Chris Osgood and had a nice group hug. Probably shared a cry, too. It
was a scene that captured the mixed state of the Islanders at roughly
10 o'clock last night, which became the midnight of their season.
Satisfied? To a point, they were, given how they re-introduced hockey
to Long Island.
Frustrated? Absolutely, because of the agonizing third and final
period of their season, and a persistent problem of coming up short
in Toronto during the playoffs.
So with a sense of pride and despair, they congratulated each other,
which came a lot easier than congratulating the Maple Leafs for
winning and moving on.
"Disappointed," said Osgood, battered by a first-period collision and
a barrage of shots. "That's what I feel most right now. Disappointed."
That's only natural. The Islanders took the Leafs to a seventh game
and trailed by only a goal in the final 15 minutes. They applied
pressure on Leafs goalie Curtis Joseph. They took their shots. They
made everyone in Air Canada Centre bite their bottom lip. They truly
believed, in spite of all the injuries and absences, that the next
round was within reach.
But it wasn't to be. For the fourth time, they were missing the extra
element that makes all the difference between a win and a loss.
Evidently, whatever the Islanders had going for them in three wins at
Nassau Coliseum didn't clear customs. Security is tight, as you know.
Therefore, the puck never slipped past Cujo. The score was never
tied, the series wasn't won, the Leafs claimed a 4-2 decision and
that's the painful reality the Islanders live with today. Maybe
tomorrow, they'll examine the big picture. But not now.
"We gave everything we could," Alexei Yashin said. "We gave ourselves
some chances. It seemed like they did everything right."
The moment the Islanders waited for came with a little less than
eight minutes left, when they were presented with a final precious
power-play chance. That's when Toronto put together its finest two
minutes of the series, by effectively deflating the Islanders' hopes.
All that remained were four shots in the last three minutes. Four
shots that never reached the intended target.
"We started jumping and we had plenty of opportunities, but it just
didn't go in," coach Peter Laviolette said.
Sure, you could nitpick about how it ended. The Islanders didn't look
like a desperate team for the first two periods. They seemed like a
tired, overmatched, undermanned and inexperienced team. The Leafs had
hustle and made all the plays. Plus, they didn't give the Islanders
countless power-play chances, something that the Islanders
capitalized on throughout the series.
And there was Yashin. He wasn't the best player on the ice, although
he had every reason to be, and even though it appeared at first that
he would be. The suspension of Shayne Corson for Game 7 was supposed
to free Yashin from the guy whose job was to stick to the Islanders'
center like a nasty rumor. All Yashin had to do was shake Alyn
McCauley, who had the unpleasant task of trying to contain one of the
game's more dangerous scorers. When Yashin scored the game's first
goal, well, it had all the makings of a big night, right? Well, not
entirely. Though Yashin was a constant presence on the puck and
around the net, he spent the rest of the game like his teammates,
coming up short against Cujo. The hero instead was Leafs forward Gary
Roberts, who scored the Leafs' first goal and once again delivered a
few hard shots at the Islanders.
But overall, the Islanders did about all they could, given what they
had. You could imagine that Cujo would be a goat today had Kenny
Jonsson been around to give the Islanders some much-needed scoring
strength. Plus, Osgood would've had an easier night with Michael Peca
around to shield him. For the first time in the series, the Islanders
truly missed two players with the talent and experience any team
needs to pull out a Game 7, on the road at that.
"It was a little bit of growing pains for some of our guys," Osgood
said. "We had a chance to see what it takes in a game like this. We
showed character in bouncing back. We just have to learn not to get
too comfortable and learn how to play well for a longer period of
time. But it was a good series. It was a good season. We just
couldn't win and give ourselves a chance to come back and play more
games at home."