ISLES CAN'T HOLD OFF CANADIENS
By Kerry Gwydir
Two powerplay goals by Miroslav Satan and a third-period tally from Alexei Yashin weren't enough as the Islanders snapped their two-game winning streak by falling to the Montreal Canadiens 4-3 at the Bell Centre in Montreal. Steve Begin scored the game-winning goal for the Habs with 1:45 left in the third.
A raucous sold-out Saturday night crowd greeted the Islanders and Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre. For the Isles, the injury bug forced Steve Stirling to juggle his lineup. Defenseman Brett Sopel (wrist) and Mark Parrish (hip strain) were both out of the lineup and are listed as day-to-day. In goal, Rick DiPietro got the start between the pipes for the Isles against Montreal's Jose Theodore.
A 5-on-3 for 1:04 just six minutes into the first gave the visitors a chance to strike early. Yet, the Isles amounted no shots during the two-man opportunity and allowed the best chance when Jan Bulis raced down the ice on a near-breakaway that DiPietro foiled with a stick rejection.
Specialty teams play continued minutes later, this time for the Habs - who took the lead at the 8:26 mark when Saku Koivu scored via the powerplay. On the play, three Islanders were caught watching the sequence unfold at their blueline, but failed to clear the puck as defenseman Sheldon Souray chipped the puck into the into the slot. That allowed a 2-on-1 to develop in front of DiPietro with just Alexei Zhitnik in position. One quick pass from Alex Perezhogin sprung Koivu alone in front, who had plenty of time to deke DiPietro and pot his fourth of the year.
Koivu played the key role in his team's second man-up goal at the 13:31 mark as he beat Petteri Nokelainen on an offensive drew deep in the Islanders' end. That allowed Alex Kovalev to take his time and blast a shot from the high slot past DiPietro.
After Koivu ran-over DiPietro to earn a goaltender interference penalty, birthday boy Miroslav Satan (31 years old) tallied a pretty one-man effort with 2:17 left in the first. Following a Trent Hunter chip past Andrei Markov, Satan waited out Theodore to go down and then stickhandled around the keeper to post his fifth of the season.
Eight minutes into the second period, the Isles had to endure a 5-on-3 against them for 10 seconds with Robert Nilsson and Brad Lukowich in the sin bin. Shawn Bates, back in the lineup after missing the past week with a hip injury, played a key part in helping extinguish the Montreal threat.
Late in the second, Petteri Nokelainen enticed Koivu into a roughing penalty, which set up Satan's second man-up tally of the game with 1:15 left in the period. Satan, who circled the top of the right faceoff dot, ripped a slapper through a Trent Hunter screen that beat Theodore over the left shoulder.
Just 1:27 into the third period, Mattias Weinhandl was sent to the penalty box for hooking Radek Bonk. The Isles killed off the penalty with little trouble as Mike Ribeiro had the best scoring chance for the Habs on a wrap around attempt that DiPietro turned away. Moments after the Weinhandl penalty expired, Bonk drew another hooking call with Janne Niinimaa being the guilty party. But once again, the Isle's PK unit was strong and held the Canadiens off the scoreboard.
Steve Begin gave the Islanders their first powerplay of the third when he was sent off the ice for holding Tomi Pettinen at the 7:56 mark of the period. As the penalty expired, Kvasha nearly set up a goal by throwing the puck on net from behind the goal line. Just after the referee blew the play dead, Asham poked the puck past Theodore. However, the goal did not count since the play was dead.
The penalty-filled third continued with Lukowich going to the box for interference on Jan Bulis at 10:48. The Canadiens were held to one shot on goal, which DiPietro turned away with his right arm.
The Canadiens took the lead back with 6:32 left in the third when Long Island-native Chris Higgins scored off a nice cross-ice feed from Bulis and Begin to give the Habs a 3-2 lead. The play started with Bulis skating up the ice in transition that saw three Islanders trapped in the Montreal zone.
However, the Islanders did not back down. With 2:53 remaining in the third, Niinimaa took a shot from the blueline, which skipped of the stick of Yashin and past Theodore to tie the game at 3-3. Niinimaa's shot appeared to first deflect off Asham's stick before hitting Yashin's and going past Theodore.
But the Islanders found themselves down once again when Begin gave the Habs the go-ahead goal with 1:45 remaining in the third. The shot was set up from Bonk from the corner as Rivet unleashed a quick wrister past DiPietro. The Islanders couldn't pull their goaltender until 25 seconds were left in the game. Craig Rivet took a penalty with less then 10 seconds on the clock, but the Isles couldn't find the tying the goal.
(45) Arron Asham-(79) Alexei Yashin-(81) Miroslav Satan
(55) Jason Blake-(16) Mike York-(7) Trent Hunter
(12) Oleg Kvasha-(17) Shawn Bates-(11) Mattias Weinhandl
(21) Robert Nilsson-(29) Petteri Nokelainen-(49) Eric Godard
(77) Alexei Zhitnik-(24) Radek Martinek
(25) Brad Lukowich-(14) Chris Campoli
(44) Janne Niinimaa-(8) Tomi Pettinen
(39) Rick DiPietro
(30) Garth Snow
(42) Alexander Perzhogin-(11) Saku Koivu-(27) Alexei Kovalev
(38) Jan Bulis-(14) Radek Bonk-(22) Steve Begin
(71) Mike Ribiero-(35) Tomas Plakanec-(73) Michael Ryder
(26) Pierre Dagenais-(21) Chris Higgins-(25) Mathieu Dandenault
(79) Andrei Markov-(52) Craig Rivet
(44) Sheldon Souray-(8) Mike Komisarek
(51) Francis Bouillon-(32) Mark Streit
(60) Jose Theodore
(75) Yann Danis
Photo Courtesy of Montreal Canadiens