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Coyotes 4, Islanders 3 (SO)

by Dyan LeBourdais / New York Islanders
In his NHL debut, Nathan Lawson made 32 saves. Despite his performance, the Islanders lost 4-3 in the shootout to the Phoenix Coyotes. Frans Nielsen scored in the shootout, but Shane Doan, Radim Vrbata and Kyle Turris scored to win it.

“(Lawson) was outstanding,” Islanders center Rob Schremp said. “I thought he played a great game. He looked like a seasoned veteran and he played awesome. He made some great plays with the puck which helped the defense out a bit there. He looked great tonight.”

While his teammates felt that Lawson played a good game, the 27-year-old was disappointed. He mentioned that playing the Coyotes felt like any other game, but that he was still hoping for a win. The game-tying goal from Martin Hanzal, with 1:28 left in regulation, really put a damper on his good mood.

In his first NHL game, goaltender Nathan Lawson #52 of the New York Islanders clears the puck away from Martin Hanzal #11 of the Phoenix Coyotes on December 18, 2010 at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Mike Stobe/NHLI via Getty Images)
“Up until about a minute and a half left in the third I felt really good,” Lawson said. “I’m pretty disappointed in that last goal, and obviously very, very upset about the shootout. But I mean it’s a stepping stone, and we got one point so just look at positives I guess.”

The Islanders took a 2-1 lead into the third period on goals from Jesse Joensuu and Michael Grabner, but the Coyotes tied the score twice, both in the third period, to come back for the win.

Four minutes and three seconds into the third period, Wojtek Wolski tied the score at two. But the Islanders continued to battle. While on the power play, Andrew MacDonald shot the puck from the blueline, Grabner made an attempt on the rebound and Schremp found yet another deflection to squeak the puck past Coyotes goaltender Jason Labarbera at 6:22.

The Islanders scored twice in the second period, first to tie the score and then to take their first lead. At 9:17, John Tavares made a cross ice pass, finding Joensuu lifted the puck to score the first game-tying goal as it flew past Labarbera and hit the top of the net.

The Islanders continued to pressure the Coyotes and Joensuu earned his second point of the game as he passed to Grabner who found the back of the net at 14:46 to give the Islanders the 2-1 go-ahead goal.

Trevor Gillies #14 of the New York Islanders fights Paul Bissonnette #12 of the Phoenix Coyotes during their game on December 18, 2010 at the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Vrbata scored the first goal of game on the power play at 6:57 of the first period. Despite his goal, the first period was characterized by an overwhelming amount of penalties on both teams. The Islanders went 0-for-4 as the Coyotes went 1-for-3 on the power play, closing the first period with a 1-0 lead.

The penalty action started at 2:13, when Islanders enforcer Trevor Gillies dropped the gloves with Paul Bissonnette of the Coyotes. While Gillies didn’t drop Bissonnette to the ice, he controlled the fight and had more punches, leaving the Coyotes winger looking for the referees to step in.

“They’re sacrificing their bodies, their blocking some shots," Islanders interim head coach Jack Capuano said. "I think they believe now in one another that we’re a team that can score some goals. Early on, we weren’t scoring or were scoring only one goal a game. We got back-to-back three goal games, they’re doing things the right way, and it just takes a little belief in that room and I think it’s coming right now.”

While the team has been looking for wins, they were really hoping to be able to take home two points for not only themselves, but also for Lawson.

“(Lawson) could’ve come in here and got a lucky win and not played good,” Joensuu said. “I think it’s better to come in here, prove yourself and prove to everybody else around you that you’re an NHL player. I’m sad for him that we couldn’t help him to win, because he really would have deserved the win.”

Joensuu and Grabner eached finished with two points. Joensuu was voted the number one star of the game.
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