The day after the New York Islanders surprised the National Hockey League with a 2-1 shootout victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins and successfully shut down Sidney Crosby, ending his 25-game point streak, the team left for an 11-day, five-game road trip against their Western Conference foes.
“Any time you go on a trip like that, it builds a lot of camaraderie,” Islanders interim head coach Jack Capuano said. “Guys get to spend a lot of time together. After the Detroit game, we have a couple days off so it’s nice to win at home in front of the great fans we had here tonight and head on that road trip in a positive way.”
The Penguins are first overall in the Eastern Conference standings, but the Islanders matched their intensity and came out with the win on Wednesday night.
“It was great,” Islanders center Frans Nielsen
said. “There were a lot of fans out there (a season-high 14,345) and it was fun playing (Wednesday) night. It was a good win for us. Hopefully it gives us a lot of confidence for the long road trip.”
|Paul Martin #7 of the Pittsburgh Penguins battles for the puck against Frans Nielsen #51 of the New York Islanders on December 29, 2010 at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York. The Islanders defeated the Penguins 2-1 in a shootout. (Photo by Mike Stobe/NHLI via Getty Images) |
Heading into their road trip, they have gone 5-1-1 in their last seven games – the best record they’ve had all season – and are up for the challenge of defeating the Detroit Red Wings (who are first in the Western Conference standings) on New Years Eve.
“That’s a tough one-two punch, huh?” Rob Schremp said about facing the two top teams in the league in back-to-back games. “So we’ll see how it goes, (our win is) a big building block for us to take into Detroit.”
Despite the Red Wings winning record in the past few seasons, the Islanders have faired better than average against the club. In 2008-09, former Islanders goaltender Joey MacDonald shut them out 2-0 after facing 42 shots at Joe Louis Arena. In 2009-10 Dwayne Roloson shut them out 6-0 when he faced 16 shots at Nassau Coliseum.
Islanders goaltender Rick DiPietro
also came out victorious against the Red Wings. DiPietro made 35 saves for a 2-1 win at Joe Louis Arena during the 2005-06 season. He also stood strong during the 2006-07 season as he forced overtime in a 4-3 loss to the Red Wings and made 31 saves through 62:57 of play.
With those stats, Capuano could start either goaltender on New Years Eve, but he may choose to play DiPietro who had a great performance on Wednesday night, making 37 of 38 saves, including a penalty shot on Kris Letang, in his first game back since coming off injured reserve for minor swelling in his knee. He also made two saves in the shootout.
“(He played) outstanding,” Nielsen said. “That’s the old DP. He’s back.”
One part of the game DiPietro particularly enjoyed occurred with 10.4 seconds left in the overtime period. A small brawl broke out when Chris Kunitz skated too close to DiPietro in the crease. As a result, Nielsen and Kunitz each took two minutes for roughing.
“I have always said we could use a good old fashioned brawl around here,” DiPietro said. “I think it’s moments like that, you go through the ranks, through juniors and eventually pro hockey, and sometimes the biggest slump busters for a team are moments like that, where you stand up for each other. It’s one thing to sit here and say you are going to war, and you’ll do anything for the guy next to you, but its another when you go and actually prove it.”
|PA Parenteau #15 of the New York Islanders looks to keep the puck away from Mark Letestu #10 of the Pittsburgh Penguins on December 29, 2010 at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Mike Stobe/NHLI via Getty Images) |
Even though all of the Islanders point streaks came to an end on Wednesday night, Josh Bailey
, Nielsen, PA Parenteau
and Schremp all remain important offensive players. Bailey scored the Islanders lone goal through 65 minutes and was rewarded with the second star of the game, while the other three forwards scored in the shootout to take the 2-1 win over the Penguins.
But Nielsen is also important in the defensive zone. He blocked four crucial shots, including two back-to-back in the overtime period while the Islanders were shorthanded and were playing 4-on-3. Jack Hillen and Mark Eaton
also blocked four shots, while Andrew MacDonald
blocked a team-high of five and recorded 27:44 TOI.
Playing as a team and trust in one another has led to the Islanders recent wins.
“We talked about our belief in one another and that’s the most important thing,” Capuano said. “If you work hard, your work ethic will dictate the scoreboard. That’s the most important thing for us. They’re a good bunch of guys, they’re high character kids, we have some good veteran leadership on the team and they’re starting to believe in one another.”
The Islanders set out on their road trip, hoping to continue their recent pattern of success.
Heading in to the road trip with 18 skaters and two goaltenders, the Islanders recalled Dylan Reese
and Jesse Joensuu
from the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.