The Demons Are Gone; Isles Onto the Playoffs
By Kerry Gwydir
Uniondale, NY (April 6) When the Islanders exacted the demons of
eight years of playoff futility on Saturday night, it wasn't
surprising that the Islanders received contributions from all 20
players in their lineup.
It started with Chris Osgood holding the fort in the opening period
with several key saves. That helped the Islanders find their legs and
roll out to a 5-1 lead after two stanzas. They survived a Washington
onslaught in the third en route to a 5-4 victory over the Capitals.
On this special night that will be etched in Islanders lore forever,
the Islanders got big-time contributions from their offensive players
like Mariusz Czerkawski, Oleg Kvasha and Alexei Yashin, their heart-
and-soul hustlers like Jason Blake, Claude Lapointe, Eric Cairns and
Steve Webb to their do-everything stalwarts Michael Peca, Kenny
Jonsson and Adrian Aucoin.
The words on the scoreboard prior to the game read, "All we need is
one." That was the magic number for the Islanders to clinch a playoff
spot going into the contest.
In the first period, the Islanders got two. They followed that up
with a strong second stanza of play and added another pair.
Jaromir Jagr's first shift of the game gave the sellout crowd heart
palpitations just a minute in. The Washington star undressed both
Islander blueliners en route to a 2-on-1 deep in the offensive end of
the ice. With Yashin the only player back, Jagr and Dainius Zubrus
played tic-tac-toe before Osgood made a sprawling stop to deny
After the crowd gave recent hero Kvasha a loud cheer for his first
shift of the contest three minutes in, both teams traded close-calls.
First, Brad Isbister blew around Caps' defenseman Nolan Yonkman, only
to shoot wide of the net as he was being taken down. Washington's
Glen Metropolit immediately marched down the ice and tested Osgood
with a close-in backhander that the Islander netminder blocked off.
At the 10-minute mark, Czerkawski was penalized for hooking down
Washington's Andrei Nikolishin. The Capitals capitalized on a
defensive breakdown that allowed Jagr and Dmitri Khristich to take
advantage of a 2-on-0 in front of Osgood. Having Jagr in alone on
your goaltender is bad enough. With Khristich to his right, Jagr fed
his teammate for an easy first goal of the game.
The Islanders responded quickly, and it was the white-hot Kvasha
doing a number on the Caps 39 seconds later. Kvasha started the play
by forcing a turnover behind the Caps' net with a big hit on JF
Fortin. Dave Scatchard pushed the puck around the boards to Kip
Miller, who then found Kvasha in the slot for a one-time blast that
beat Olie Kolzig between the wickets. That initiated a crowd chant
of "Ollie! Ollie!" - and not meant for the Washington goaltender.
It was Cairns' turn to get in on things. The bruising blueliner sent
the crowd into a frenzy 74 ticks later as his wristshot beat Kolzig
five-hole. The play started as a negated rush by Yashin. The
Islanders regained possession as Washington began to run around. That
left Cairns the freedom to skate in and bury his shot uncontested.
Osgood shut the door in the final minute when Sergei Gonchar was
allowed to walk in and blast a shot from 20-feet out after Kenny
Jonsson had been yanked down by Jagr - unpenalized.
Washington went on the powerplay again when Yashin was sent to the
sin bin, a penalty that nullified an Islander goal. Osgood made a
superb stop late during the kill when Zubrus ripped a one-time shot
from 10 feet out off a Jagr feed. The Islander netminder managed to
block off the shot with his right arm with Roman Hamrlik clearing the
rebound from the on-coming Capitals' rush.
The Islanders had two great scoring opportunities after that. First,
Shawn Bates walked in with Yashin on a 2-on-1. The left wing kept the
puck and tried to use a backhander. Kolzig waited out Bates, and
lunged across the ice to snuff out Michael Peca's follow-up shot.
Lapointe then got behind the Caps' defense and nearly had a breakaway
until he was yanked down by Colin Forbes, thus putting the Islanders
back on the powerplay.
With 10:26 left in the period, Washington went back on the man
advantage when Isbister hauled down Metropolit. The Caps buzzed the
Islanders' cage once again. And it was last line of defense - Osgood -
that came up big twice. The first came on a break-in from Chris
Simon, who tested the Islander netminder with a low drive. Steve
Konowalchuk followed up the play and got a whack at the rebound that
Osgood kicked away.
Kenny Jonsson gave the Islanders some padding to play with as he
potted his 10th goal of the year with 6:24 left in the second. The
sequence began with Isbister forcing the Washington defense on their
heels with a rush down the right wing. Kolzig made the first stop,
but Jonsson cruised in to slap home the rebound. The goal was
initiated by a huge hit by Peca that rocked Washington's Simon at the
The Islanders kept the pressure on and the checking line of Blake-
Lapointe-Webb helped the Islanders to a 4-1 lead. With Webb jousting
at the Washington blueline with Washington captain Brendan Witt, that
allowed the Islander agitator's linemates to break into the Caps' end
on a 2-on-1. Blake finished off a nifty behind-the-back drop pass
from Lapointe with a laser that beat Kolzig along the ice.
You could feel the electricity in the air at this point. It continued
when Peca tomb-stoned Nikolishin with a wicked open-ice hit at the
Caps' blueline. Washington's Simon, who Peca planted minutes before,
took a run at the Islander captain and delivered an elbow to the side
of his head -- earning the Washington toughie a trip to the box.
When the second period ended, the Islanders left the ice to the
standing ovation of 16,297 at Nassau Coliseum. By the time just 1:24
elapsed into the third, they were back on their feet when Peca snuck
a tight-angled shot between the post and Kolzig's body. That sent the
Coliseum crowd into a frenzy with every fan yelling the
It was a good thing that Peca got that goal because the Caps did not
quit and made a game of it. Yonkman, Jagr and Metropolit all scored
in the final period, pushing the Islanders' faithful to the edge of
their emotional threshold.
Osgood and the Islanders tightened up in the final minute, even
without Yashin who left the game with a groin strain (he is day-to-
day). The Islander goaltender made an outstanding stop on Steve
Konowalchuk with a one-goal lead that appeared destined for the top
corner of the net. The rest was up to the clock to tick down as the
Islanders hit and grabbed any Capital player they could in the final
minute, thus cementing the victory and a slot in the Stanley Cup
Oh, by the way, the Islanders finally put an end to that 0-20-3 funk
against the Capitals.
Kvasha's 12th goal on the season has now tied his career high, set in
1998-99 with the Florida Panthers...
The Islanders scratches were W Mats Lindgren, RW Jim Cummins, D Dick
Tarnstrom (wrist strain), D Radek Martinek (knee surgery) and Kevin
The Bridgeport Sound Tigers, our AHL affiliate with top prospects
Rick DiPietro and Raffi Torres, square off against the Hartford Wolf
Pack tomorrow, April 7th at the Arena at Harbor Yard, conveniently
located off I-95 and adjacent to the Bridgeport-Port Jefferson Ferry.
Through this special offer, the Sound Tigers are offering discounted
ticket prices of $18.50 (center ice) and $13.50. Come cheer on your
future Islander stars against the Wolf Pack, the AHL affiliate of the
Rangers. To order tickets, call 203-334-GOAL and ask for the
Islanders Insider special.
On the ownership:
"There's no better in the NHL. I don't say that because they're my
bosses. It's the truth and you guys know it. They wanted nothing more
than to see this organization come back and they're the primary
reason it happened. They came into the room and congratulated
everyone after the game."
On Mike Milbury:
"He's the one who made the deals and the decisions to hang on to the
character players, the ones he felt needed to be here as Islanders to
get it done. He took a tremendous leap of faith with me. Mike
Milbury, Gordie Clark and their staff deserve a tremendous amount of
On the three stars (Lapointe, Webb and Jossson)
"It was nice to see guys that have been here the longest be the
deserving three stars. They all had brilliant games. It was only
fitting that those were the three that got the stars, and they
On giving up three third period goals:
"You knew they were going to come out hard. They had nothing to lose.
It's always disappointing to give up goals, but not enough to make me
not smile. It was a good win."
On finally beating Washington:
"I've been waiting for that, begging for someone to say it. (Laughs)
We've done a good job breaking bad traditions this year. It was nice
to kill two birds with one stone."
From the Lockerrroom
On making the playoffs with the Islanders:
"You play for one reason. We've gone through some rough times but you
always dream about this and now it's here. It's a great feeling. This
is a great team. We're not just thinking playoffs, we're thinking
On if he agreed with Lapointe's Stanley Cup sentiments:
"Of course. Why not? We've got a great bunch of people in this room.
Everybody's chipping in, everybody's stepping up to the plate. We're
going for the best. We all want to feel like that when the playoffs
start. We've got to believe it, first of all, to be able to do it."
On the feeling of clinching:
"Everybody was cheering and throwing their t-shirts. I got the
chills. It was just great."
"It feels great. I've been here a few years and to finally solidy a
playoff spot, it's a great feeling for everyone."
On his goal:
"I got a great pass from Yashin. Playing the right side, I see the
ice a little better. I took the shot, hoped it would go in five-hole
and it did. I was pretty excited about it."
On whether he anticipates an emotional letdown for the next game:
"It's good that we're on a little bit of a role and we're confident
on the ice. I don't think it's going to be hard for us to get up for
Carolina at all, especially since we could end up facing them in the
On the feeling:
"We've sort of felt the playoffs for awhile, but to get this aspect
out of the way, where we can't be knocked out no matter what, it's a
On the team:
"It's everyone wanting to be there for one another. It's not two or
three guys getting it done. It's the 20 or 30 that have played on the
team this season, including guys like Radek Martinek who helped ups
out so much before his injury. It's a special team. There are four
different guys getting it done every night. It's fun to be part of a
team like that.
On Washington's third period outburst:
"It's not what we wanted to happen but we battled through and held
on. It made it an exciting game."
On being announced one of the three stars:
"It was a great feeling, to come out and see the fans still there.
Everyone was standing. It was the best feeling in the world."
On what the last minute of the game was like:
"Crazy. Oakie and I were just standing by the front of the net trying
to knock as many bodies over as we could. It's tough to score if
you're on the ice. We blocked a few shots and got a lucky break when
Bondra broke his stick."
On the crowd chanting his name:
"It's exciting to be cheered on like that. I'm going to do my best to
keep it going."