ENOUGH TO RESCUE ISLES
May 1, 2002 -- TORONTO - A mean series ended last night with two
beaten and exhausted teams too short of gas and players to do each
other any more dirt. Or even to nail down Game 7.
Ultimately, the Islanders were doomed to lose their first playoff
series in eight years when Michael Peca and Kenny Jonsson were lost
in Game 5. Nevertheless, the puck that could have put the series into
sudden death was in the slot, over a stick, over the net, or going
off a Leaf defenseman's legs repeatedly during the final 10 furious
The Leafs were trying to hold off the Islanders with their own
crutches and a staggering Curtis Joseph until Alexander Mogilny
closed the hatch into the empty net. The Leafs escaped, 4-2, by the
skin of whatever teeth they had left in their mouths and moved on to
play rested Ottawa with whatever it is they have left.
The Isles were let back in the game when Joseph gave up an awful
short-side goal to Kim Miller, and unquestionably they played hard
enough in the final 15 minutes that they could have gotten lucky
enough to win. But having started last night's game on the same
tiptoes with which they walked into the Air Canada Centre in three
previous visits in this series, it's a reach to suggest they should
What one can say with absolute certainty is that the Leaf veteran
forwards picked up for the absence of Mats Sundin and Shayne Corson
with game-turning efforts in the first and second periods, while the
Islander energy players, Steve Webb and Jason Blake, didn't have
either the energy or the gumption to bring it hard in a Game 7 on the
Gary Roberts drove to the net incessantly before and after he evened
Alexei Yashin's game-opening, power-play goal. Travis Green,
no "gutless puke," as he was called by Mike Milbury the day he traded
the center, dominated on faceoffs. Alexander Mogilny whipped in both
the lead goal on a one-timer and the empty-netter with a puck-on-a-
string move that sent Darren Van Impe sprawling just inside the blue
The very fact that Van Impe was out with the goalie pulled, that call-
up Ray Schultz took a shift with five minutes remaining, that Adrian
Aucoin had to play 37:42, illustrates the degree of difficulty
involved in winning a Game 7 on the road against a playoff-tested
team, with such a roster. But Yashin still almost killed himself
In 27:16 of ice time, in burying that early chance, in the way he got
better as the series went along, the nine more years for which the
Islanders have Yashin signed seemed like a picture window of
opportunity, not a bathroom-sized version with bars on it.
The Leafs were all over the only guy who could bring the depleted
Islanders back, and yet he spun and bounced away, drew a holding call
and fought to the end.
"Whatever people have said about him, I didn't see it," said
Laviolette. "I saw a guy with a lot of points [seven], triple the
number of opportunities, who played hard at both ends."
Laviolette saw no consolation in how far the Islanders came this
"We set out to win the championship," he said.
But realistically, the Islanders also played their first series in
eight years to see if they had the stuff to win more. They wound up
short of bodies and experience, but not drive from a star who went
down encouragingly hard.
"It's tough on the road, but if we had come out stronger . . .,"
Yashin said. "It's up to you guys to say we should have won or we did
our best or what else we could have done.
"I just know it's hard to lose."