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The Skinny

by Eric Hornick / New York Islanders
Game 30

Coyotes 4, Isles 3 (shootout)
Michal Hanzal scored the tying goal with 88 seconds to play in regulation and the Coyotes converted on all three shootout attempts as Phoenix rallied for a 4-3 win over the Islanders before 8,433 at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.  Hanzal’s heroics helped spoiled the NHL debut of Nathan Lawson in the Islander net; Lawson was looking to become the first Islander goaltender since Roberto Luongo in 1999 to win in his National Hockey League Debut.

Vrbata Scores First
The Isles dominated stretches of the first period, outshot Phoenix 19-8, yet found themselves on the short end of a 1-0 score.  Radim Vrbata’s 7th goal of the lead, on a Coyote power play, gave Phoenix the lead at 6:57 of the opening session.

The Islanders had two brief 5-on-3’s and two lengthy 4-on-3’s during the session, but failed to score on the power plays.  The 19 shots were a season high for the opening period; the Isles had had 13 shots or fewer in every previous first period this season.

Isles Grab the Lead in the Second
The Isles scored twice in a 5:29 span of the middle period to grab the lead.  Jesse Joensuu scored his second goal of the season off a great play by John Tavares.  James Wisniewksi also added an assist.  The “Wiz” leads the Isles in assists (15) and is now tied with Matt Moulson for the team point lead (17).

Joensuu then set up Michael Grabner to give the Isles the lead.  Grabner’s goal, which was confirmed by video review, was his 7th of the season, which is 3rd on the team; only Tavares (8) and Moulson (11) have more goals.  Grabner moved into a tie for 7th place among all NHL rookies in goals.  It’s the second multi-point game of Joensuu’s career.

Back and Forth Third
Wojtek Wolski tied the game off a great pass from Shane Doan at 4:03 of the third, but Rob Schremp’s power play goal 2:19 later regained the lead for the Isles.  Schremp now had six goals in 16 games this season. Schremp also has a point in seven of the last nine games; the Isles were shutout in the other two games.    The Isles killed off a penalty to Jack Hillen called at 15:16 of the third, but at 18:32, Michal Hanzal buried the rebound of Vrbata’s shot to tie the game at 3. 

Shootout Time
Following a scoreless overtime, which included the Isles killing a penalty, the Coyotes earned the extra point in the shootout.  Phoenix shot first and Shane Doan beat Lawson; Frans Nielsen converted for the 12th time in 22 career attempts to even the shootout, but Vrbata, who hit both goalposts in overtime, converted a backhander to put Phoenix ahead 2-1 in the shootout.  Schremp’s attempt skimmed off the goal post and Kyle Turris buried his try to give the Coyotes the victory.  4-3 (shootout) Final.

Home and Road
The Isles are now 6-18-6, 4-7-3 at home. The Coyotes are 15-9-7, 9-5-3 on the road. With the overtime point, the Isles close within two points of New Jersey and they have played two fewer games.  Phoenix matches their season-high six games over .500, and improve to 1-1-1 on their six game road trip.

Shootout Stats
This was the second shootout ever between the squads; the Isles won the shootout in Glendale this past January.  The Isles are 0-3 in shootouts this season (0-2 at home) while Phoenix is 2-3.  It’s the first time that the Isles have lost three consecutive shootouts in the same season; they lost four consecutive shootouts over two seasons in 2009.

In the Nets
Nathan Lawson made his NHL debut.  He is the 39th goalie in Islander history and the first since Rick DiPietro in 2001 to start his NHL debut.  Lawson made 32 saves.  Jason Labarbera finished with 41 saves and he improves to 3-3-1 on the season.

Lots of Shots

It’s the third time this season that the Isles have had at least 40 shots (0-1-2). Over the last 3 ½ seasons, the Isles have had at least 40 shots eighteen times, with 17 of those times occurring at home.  Lots of shots have not equated to lots of success; the Isles are 5-8-5 in those games.
John Tavares had seven of the Islander shots, matching a career high.

As Seen on MSG+
The Isles were outscored 2-1 in the third period.  They have now gone 28 consecutive games without outscoring their opponents in the final period.  This is the longest such streak in NHL history; the previous high was 23 by St. Louis in 2001 and Montreal in 2002.

Power Plays

The Isles were 1-8 on their power play; the eight attempts matched a season high set on Opening Night. They have now scored a power play goal in three consecutive home games.  However, they are still 3-59 with the extra man in the last 16 games.  The Coyotes went 1-7 on the power play.  The 15 combined attempts also matched the season high, set on Opening Night.

In the Circle
The Isles had a strong first two periods in the circle, winning 28 of 47; they won 37 of 73 face-offs overall (51%). Zenon Konopka won 7 of 11.

Missing Men
Mark Streit, Kyle Okposo, Doug Weight, Trent Hunter, Mike Mottau and Mark Eaton remain out. Rick DiPietro missed the game with soreness in his knee; Bruno Gervais was a healthy scratch.  The Isles have now lost 171 man-games to injury. Phoenix, on the other hand, has lost only 26 man-games.

Fight Night
Trevor Gillies fought Paul Bissonette in the first period; it was Trevor’s 7th fight and Bissonette’s 5th.  Bissonette has an interesting statistical oddity—he has 5 major penalties and no minor penalties this season.

Scoring Three

The Isles scored three goals for the second straight game.  It’s the first time in 20 games that the Isles have scored at least three goals in consecutive games (3 games: October 23-29, 2010).

Season Series Stats   
This was the only meeting of the season between the squads.  The Coyotes win on Long Island for the first time since October 29, 2002 (this was only their third trip in that span); The Isles are 4-2-3 in nine home games against the Coyotes since they relocated from Winnipeg in 1996.

Happy Anniversary
26 years ago today (December 18, 1984):  John Tonelli recorded the third (and final) hat trick of his Isles career, leading the Isles to a 7-4 win over Winnipeg.
The Isles hadn’t played on this date since 2003; they are 1-2-4 in their only seven December 18th games since Tonelli turned his trick.

Up Next
Wednesday, December 22- Lightning @ Islanders 7:00pm
[MSG+ (Subway Islanders Game Night at 6:30), WRHU 88.7FM]

The Isles conclude their homestand when they face Tampa for the third time this season.  The Isles won in Tampa on a long-delayed video review in overtime in October that raised their record to 4-1-2; they lost to Tampa 4-2 on November 17th in Jack Capuano’s first game as interim head coach.

The Lightning are 18-10-4 on the season; they are 9-2-2 at home and 9-8-2 on the road.
Eric Hornick has been the statistician on Islander home game telecasts since 1982. Information contained in “The Skinny” has been gathered from various sources.

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