A HUGE STEP FORWARD
By LARRY BROOKS
Islanders 4 - Devils 2
April 2, 2002 -- High-stakes hockey in the spring is about seizing
the moment, which is exactly what the Islanders did last night. And
so this morning they awaken haven taken one giant step toward their
first playoff berth since 1994 - which, everyone in the metropolitan
area recognizes, is a long, long time ago.
The Islanders seized the moment while the Devils blinked in their
showdown at the Coliseum. As such, the Islanders not only reduced
their magic number for clinching a tournament berth to five, but went
two points up on the two-time defending conference champs in the
battle for sixth place. What's more, in losing New Jersey now faces a
likely fight to the finish simply to secure an invite, their lead
over the ninth-place Caps at six points, each team having six games
"This was obviously a big, big win for us but I'm not going to say
we're in until we mathematically clinch," Chris Osgood said after his
team's 4-2 victory. "We can't relax at all. It seems that every time
we do, it comes back to bite us."
The Islanders played with some bite last night after Saturday's
desultory effort in losing in Washington on Saturday. And even though
they were down 2-1 after two, they refused to become demoralized,
refused to back off against a Devils team famous for protecting
"When we play on the edge we're a very tough team; at least that's my
take on it," Peter Laviolette said. "For whatever reason, this team
responds to pressure and plays when its back is against the wall.
"I don't know that our back was against the wall, but we were
desperate. We had a poor outing against Ottawa, a poor outing for
half the game against Toronto, a poor outing against Washington [in
our last three games.] As a result, there are meetings, talks;
everything else that comes with it."
Down 2-1 after two, held without a shot for nearly 11 minutes during
a second period in which the Devils struck twice to gain the lead,
the Islanders played aggressive, desperate hockey in the third. They
tied the score at 6:01 when Oleg Kvasha beat Martin Brodeur on his
own rebound off a two-on-one, then grabbed the lead at 6:54 when
Shawn Bates grabbed an errant Sergei Brylin feed and raced in alone
to beat Brodeur on his forehand. Kenny Jonsson's empty-netter sealed
So rather than stating that the Islanders seized the moment, it's
more accurate to suggest they seized 53 moments and made that stand.
"It's not an easy thing to do to come back after two periods," said
Laviolette, whose lineup was stabilized with the return of both Bates
and Adrian Aucoin. "And against New Jersey, it's sometimes almost
The Islanders were effective in the neutral zone, and did well in the
battles for possession. The team competed, refusing to be intimidated
by any lingering New Jersey aura. And Osgood was outstanding; sharp
and quick around the net.
"I like to play in big games and win big games," said Osgood, who
made 39 saves, his team outshot 41-22. "I like to play against New
Jersey and Marty.
"In Detroit, I never played so many games at this point of the season
with playoff implications. These games almost are playoff games."
Now, because of last night, unless something catastrophic occurs,
Osgood will be playing in real playoff games on the Island.