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Thrashers 5, Islanders 4

by Dyan LeBourdais / New York Islanders
Islanders 5-4 loss to the Atlanta Thrashers at Nassau Coliseum on Saturday night is almost unexplainable. A series of bad bounces and fluke goals sent the Thrashers ahead in a game that was played with a lot of heart.

“We’re getting a lot of positives out of these games,” Islanders defenseman Travis Hamonic said. “We’re trying to find all the good things that we can and obviously tonight I thought that we played really hard. We really battled throughout the game. To come back, I think that showed a lot of character and we have to make sure that we finish it off.”

The Islanders took an initial two-goal lead. Matt Martin scored a gritty first goal for the Islanders after he stole a Blake Comeau rebound shot from the slot at 16:53 of the first period. Then Matt Moulson set the stage for an Islanders 2-0 lead when he scored just 2:44 into the start of the second period.

Dustin Byfuglien #33 and Tobias Enstrom #39 of the Atlanta Thrashers defend against John Tavares #91 and Matt Moulson #26 of the New York Islanders on December 11, 2010 at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York. The Thrashers defeated the Isles 5-4. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
From that point on, the Thrashers were able to capitalize on a breakdown in momentum and scored three straight goals (Anthony Stewart; Johnny Oduya scored two) over a stretch of 9:02, giving them their first lead of the game (3-2) with 12:57 remaining in regulation.

“It’s tough right now,” Islanders interim head coach Jack Capuano said. “I thought we generated some chances and then we went flat for a little while there. We had a couple of breakdowns in the D-zone that cost us a couple of goals.”

But Rob Schremp’s goal at 9:15 tied the score at three and the Islanders regained their driving force. Then Bryan Little scored the Thrashers fourth goal at 11:35, off a shorthanded faceoff. Almost no one saw the goal until the puck was in the net behind Rick DiPietro.

“We battled back to get where we wanted to be and then (the Thrashers scored) another fluke goal,” Capuano said. “I mean it’s just the bounces these guys are getting right now.”

Schremp explained the same sentiment as the coach. “I’ve never seen that before in my life, to be honest. I’ve never seen anyone score off the puck drop. That was the first time I’ve ever seen it.”

Then Alexander Burmistrov scored the goal that would be known as the game-winning goal at 14:16, sending the Thrashers ahead 5-3. Despite the two goal lead with 5:44 remaining in regulation, the Islanders wouldn’t give up.

Rob Schremp #44 of the New York Islanders scores a third period goal as Goaltender Chris Mason #50 of the Atlanta Thrashers looks back at the puck in the net on December 11, 2010 at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Mike Stobe/NHLI via Getty Images)
DiPietro said, “That goal right there was a bit of a game changer. Then they get that tip off the point shot to make it a two-goal game. I don’t know. It’s just sickening.”

After falling behind 5-3, Quebec Nordiques fans descended from the 300 section into the lower bowl, camping behind Thrashers goaltender Chris Mason with five minutes left in the game. As they showed their support for the Islanders, Comeau scored the team's fourth goal on the power play with just 1:16 remaining in regulation. The power play goal was the first of its kind since Moulson scored on the power play Nov. 6.

Even though the Islanders ended their power play drought, the team wasn’t celebrating. They have now dropped 19 of their last 20 decisions, and a power play goal is the least of the team’s worries.

“I mean it’s a bit of a burden on our back, but what does it do? We still didn’t get the two points, so, does it matter? No,” said Schremp, who got the assist on the power play goal.

Capuano agreed. He said, “If we won the game and didn’t score on the power play, I’d be a little more happy right now. I don’t look at it that way. We’re trying to get a win here and it’s just frustrating.”
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