A Huge Two Points
By Kerry Gwydir
Uniondale, NY (April 1) The Islanders saved possibly their best 20
minutes of hockey this season for last on Monday night.
That's when they erupted for three goals in a 4-2 come-from-behind
victory over the New Jersey Devils. The Islanders recorded goals from
Oleg Kvasha and Shawn Bates within 53 seconds of each other to turn a
2-1 New Jersey lead into a 3-2 Islander advantage. Kenny Jonsson
sealed the deal with an empty-netter.
Chris Osgood put forth another outstanding effort for the Isles in
front of another sellout crowd as the Islanders were out-shot, 41-22.
The Islanders now have sole possession of the 6th seed as the Devils
drop to the 7th seed. Nipping at their heels is the Montreal
Canadiens, who won tonight in Pittsburgh and are just four points
behind of the Devils.
The Islanders got some good news prior to this pivotal Eastern
Conference matchup with the returns of Bates and Adrian Aucoin from
injury and Eric Cairns from suspension. The Islanders got off to a
good beginning, taking a 1-0 lead into the first intermission.
Bates paid immediate dividends on the first goal of the game,
courtesy of Alexei Yashin at the 8:23 mark. Kenny Jonsson started the
breakout up the ice along the left wing boards to Bates. The left
winger immediately hit Mark Parrish, barreling into the Devils' zone.
He then dropped the puck off to Yashin, cruising through the top of
the slot. With three New Jersey players shadowing him, Yashin somehow
deked around the trio. That allowed the center to get in close on
Martin Brodeur to roof a shot over the New Jersey netminder's trapper
and just under the crossbar. The goal was Yashin's 250th of his NHL
career and 32nd of the season.
The Devils went on the powerplay with 5:25 left in the period when
Steve Webb cross-checked down Brian Rafalski behind the New Jersey
net. The Islanders extinguished that New Jersey chance.
Tempers flared with 1:22 left when Bobby Holik bumped Osgood behind
the play, missed by both referees. Brad Isbister came to his aid and
challenged Holik, who turtled on the play. New Jersey's Colin White
came in late and floored Dave Scatchard into the Islanders' bench,
further igniting a 5-on-5 punch-up that wound up with Darren Van Impe
scrapping with New Jersey's Patrik Elias. When all was finished, the
Islanders were somehow shorthanded for two minutes.
New Jersey buzzed for the 1:22 and it was Osgood who made two
spectacular saves right before the buzzer. The first came on Brian
Gionta, who slapped Scott Gomez's centering pass on net that Osgood
rejected with his toe from point-blank range. The Islander netminder,
sprawled out on the ice, managed to then lay out and stop Scott
Stevens' rebound attempt as the period came to a close.
The Devils bounced back when the Islanders got caught running around
in their own end at the 3:05 mark of the middle stanza. Holik started
the scoring sequence, helping generate a Stevens' point shot. The
puck pinged around in front as Holik ended up re-directing a Gomez
centering pass that pounced off at least one pair of skates and
slowly found its way over the goal line.
It didn't get any better for the Islanders as Osgood was penalized
for chopping down Jay Pandolfo at the 4:26 mark. New Jersey took
control of the period at this point. Sergei Brylin got the powerplay
goal, converting a 2-on-1 down low from Stephane Richer at the 5:24
The Islanders had a pair of back-to-back powerplay midway through the
second, but did little to test the New Jersey end of the ice.
With 6:20 left, the Devils had a goal waved off when Gionta knocked
off the net as Petr Sykora had a waning net sitting in front of him
with the puck on his stick blade.
Both teams traded quality scoring opportunities in the final 20
seconds of the middle period. Isbister fought off the checking of
Scott Niedermayer to get off a backhander that Brodeur turned away.
Gionta came right down on a 2-on-1 that Osgood gobbled up.
After counterpunching for the first six minutes of the third period,
Kvasha scored one of his hugest goals of the season at the 6:01 mark.
A scrum in the neutral zone resulted in Kvasha coming into the
Devils' zone on a 2-on-1. Instead of passing, Kvasha took the initial
shot, which Brodeur stopped. The Islander forward followed up his
play and slammed his rebound through the New Jersey netminder's legs.
The Devils immediately went on the offensive and buzzed the
Islanders' net. Osgood came up huge on several New Jersey
opportunities as the Islanders looked to be in trouble.
Then, in a dramatic turn of events, New Jersey's White misplayed a
pass at the Islander blueline. That sent Bates off to the races with
a breakaway date with Brodeur. The New Jersey goaltender played it
aggressively, attempting to pokecheck the Islander forward. Bates saw
that coming and snapped a shot underneath the diving Brodeur.
Osgood held the fort the rest of the way, making at least a half-
dozen big saves with New Jersey looking for the equalizer. His best
came on a slapshot from Richer, who walked in alone with three
minutes left to challenge the Islander netminder. Osgood threw up his
trapper to knock the puck out of harm's way.
With 1:37 and Brodeur pulled for an extra skater, Jonsson read a New
Jersey faceoff play at his own blueline perfectly and intercepted a
cross-ice pass for the empty-netter.
The Fight Card: Darren Van Impe vs. Patrik Elias, 18:38, First
Period. Not exactly a heavyweight punchup, but give Elias credit for
dropping the gloves in this short bout. Van Impe landed the early
blows before Elias tied him up?
Dave Scatchard vs. Colin White, 1:30, second period. White wanted
this one as the two skated up the ice after coming together in front
of the New Jersey net. White dropped the gloves first and got in the
opening shot. But Scatchard came up big, landing a heavy right that
sent White to the ice...
The Islanders scratches are W Mats Lindgren, RW Jim Cummins, D Dick
Tarnstrom (wrist strain), D Radek Martinek (knee surgery) and Kevin
The next Islanders promotional night is April 6th when the Washington
Capitals are in town. All fans will receive an Islanders 30th