Islanders 5, Avalanche 4
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Injuries to several key players forced the Islanders to raid their farm team in Bridgeport in order to ice a full squad Saturday against the Avalanche. Fresh off the ferry, Jeff Hamilton got things going early for the Islanders, and they held off a late push on their way to a 5-4 victory.
The change was immediately obvious as Hamilton, coming off a hat trick for Bridgeport Friday night, scored his first NHL goal. Taking a pass behind the Avalanche net from Eric Godard, Hamilton flicked the puck at Colorado netminder Aebischer. The puck sat just ahead of the goal line, but a strong net-mouth effort by Godard forced David Aebischer to boot the puck in.
The next shift, Godard was back on the ice, this time with call-ups Rob Collins, making his NHL debut, and Jeremy Colliton, and they almost made it 2-0. A strong rush by Collins, started by a smooth move past the defense, set up Colliton for a one-timer at the crease that Aebischer managed to get his glove on.
The Islanders did build a two-goal lead with just under eight minutes remaining in the first period, with Brent Sopel leading Alexei Yashin up ice with a three-zone pass. Penetrating the Avs' zone, Yashin faked a shot, freezing Colorado defenseman Brett Clark, and found Arron Asham at the top of the crease. Aebischer stopped Asham with a leg pad on his first attempt, but after collecting the rebound, Asham deposited his sixth goal of the year.
Hamilton's stick put his team in trouble with less than two minutes left in the period, as he sailed the puck into the crowd, giving the Avalanche a powerplay. Colorado had a few chances, but left the ice scoreless, and with a deficit in shots, trailing New York 11-6.
After killing off the remainder of Hamilton's first-period penalty and a hooking call on Brent Sopel to start the second period, the Islanders weren't content with defending a two-goal lead and went on the offensive. Picking up an errant drop-pass by Ian Laperriere in the Islanders' end of the ice, Asham whipped a pass across the neutral zone to Miroslav Satan, sending him in on net. A quick, hard slapshot hammered the puck past Aebischer and put the Islanders up 3-0.
The big lead would be short-lived thanks to a nice pass to J-M Liles from Andrew Brunette, who was positioned behind Rick DiPietro's net during the Avs' third powerplay of the night. Liles' slid the puck behind the Islanders' goalie, from his spot to the right of the net, taking advantage of DiPietro's movement from left to right.
If the three-goal lead didn't last long, the two-goal advantage was gone in the blink of an eye, only this time it was a positive change for the Islanders. A strong effort at the Colorado blueline and a blind pass by Mattias Weinhandl put the puck on Wyatt Smith's stick down low, setting him up for a 2-on-1 with Mark Parrish. Smith waited out Patrice Brisboise, and made a floating pass to Parrish, who buried it into the open net to Aebischer's stick-side.
Colorado wasn't giving up though, and a foot-race between DiPietro and Avalanche rookie Marek Svatos ended with a 4-2 score on the board. A long-range bouncing pass by Liles landed just inside the Islanders' zone, and DiPietro and Svatos both took off. Just before DiPietro reached the puck though, Svatos got a stick on it, and chipped it over the goalie and into the open net, cutting New York's lead back to two goals. Despite a late powerplay for the Islanders, it would stay that way when the horn blew after 40 minutes.
Some bad blood that was simmering between Brad May and Godard came to a head early in the third period, as a mid-ice check by Godard sent May's linemate Brett McLean flying. Cody McCormick responded with a slash to Godard, but it was May who answered the bell, dropping the gloves with the Islanders' big man. When all was said and done, May was worse for wear, and the locals were on a powerplay.
Though they didn't convert with the man-advantage, the Islanders were soon able to push their lead back to three goals. Moving the puck along the blueline, Mike York fed Radek Martinek, who passed to Chris Campoli at the right dot. A hard wrister changed direction on the way to the net, beating Aebischer for a fifth time. Colorado coach Joel Quenneville ended his goalie's evening early, brining in Peter Budaj to finish the game.
After four unsuccessful attempts on the powerplay, the Islanders found themselves with consecutive two-man advantages midway through the third, as Avs defensemen Liles and Rob Blake were called for a total of six penalty minutes. The futility continued though, as Budaj stopped the three shots managed by New York.
Though the Islanders couldn't score, Avalanche winger Alex Tanguay could, streaking down the left wing and firing a low shot through DiPietro's pads. A double-minor on Weinhandl for high-sticking put the visitors in position to add more goals to their total, which they did, but only after the Islanders rode some big saves by DiPietro to a successful kill. Back at even-strength, Svatos picked up the puck in front of the Islanders' crease, and tucked his second goal of the night under a scrambling DiPietro.
The Coliseum crowd held it's breath when Mike York was whistled for tripping with just over a minute left in regulation, as a pulled goalie gave the Avalanche a 6-on-4 powerplay. A desperate effort by the Islanders' penalty killers helped stave off disappointment, as they home team held on to win.
OFF THE ICE: Wyatt Smith, Jeremy Colliton, Jeff Hamilton and Rob Collins were called up from Bridgeport... For the Islanders, Shawn Bates (hamstring), Oleg Kvasha (ankle), Jason Blake (concussion), Kevin Colley (knee) and Petteri Nokelainen (knee) were scratched, while the Avalanche sat Steve Konowalchuk (wrist), Bob Boughner and Vitaly Kolesnik (healthy) and Kurt Sauer (conditioning stint)... The home team is undefeated in the last six meetings between New York and Colorado... Mark Parrish and Turgeon have been members of both teams... In their past six losses, the Avalanche have been outscored by a total of 33-18.
--additional reporting by Brian Bohl
Jeff Hamilton on his first NHL goal:
"It felt good to get one on the first shift and get it out of the way. I could just go out and play hockey and not worry about anything else after that."
On the team's fast start:
"We had to come out on all cylinders. We did a pretty good job of setting the tone."
Eric Godard on his line getting significant playing time:
"You want to step up when guys go down and take advantage of the extra time. My job was to get lanes open for (Rob) Collins and Hamilton. Being out there gives me the confidence that I can contribute more than just fighting."
Steve Stirling on the team's close victory:
"We had to fight and claw after being ahead by three, but I think it bodes well for us in the long run."
On the play of the rookies:
"The new guys played really well. Hamilton did a great job for his second game. The (experience) will make them better players for us on Monday. There are a lot of positive to come out of tonight."
(45) Arron Asham-(79) Alexei Yashin-(81) Miroslav Satan
(18) Jeff Hamilton-(16) Mike York-(7) Trent Hunter
(11) Mattias Weinhandl-(28) Wyatt Smith-(37) Mark Parrish
(54) Rob Collins-(27) Jeremy Colliton -(49) Eric Godard
(77) Alexei Zhitnik-(3) Brent Sopel
(44) Janne Niinimaa-(25) Brad Lukowich
(14) Chris Campoli-(24) Radek Martinek
(39) Rick DiPietro
(30) Garth Snow
(18) Alex Tanguay-(19) Joe Sakic-(40) Marek Svatos
(15) Andrew Brunette-(87) Pierre Turgeon-(23) Milan Hejduk
(13) Dan Hinote-(14) Ian Laperriere-(24) Antti Laaksonen
(10) Brad May-(11) Cody McCormick-(53) Brett McLean
(4) Rob Blake-(26) John-Michael Liles
(71) Patrice Brisebois-(27) Ossi Vaananen
(3) Karlis Skrastins-(5) Brett Clark
(1) David Aebischer
(31) Peter Budaj