YASHIN, SATAN LEAD WAY TO A WIN
A pair of goals by Ilya Kovalchuk pulled the Thrashers within a goal, but a pair by Alexei Yashin gave the Islanders the win, as Rick DiPietro stopped 33 shots for a 4-3 win at the Coliseum.
A hooking penalty on Atlanta's Greg de Vries put the Islanders on the powerplay early, allowing two quick chances. One came off Miroslav Satan's attempted redirect of a Chris Campoli blast from the point, while the other came on an odd bounce behind the Thrashers' net. A dump-in took a wicked left turn behind the goal, ending up on Thrashers goalie Adam Berkhoel's right post, while he guarded the left side. No Islander could get to the puck in time though, and the game remained scoreless.
The line of Kovalchuk, Patrik Stefan and Marian Hossa put the pressure on the Islanders in their own zone, drawing a slashing penalty by Tomi Pettinen. Atlanta got several chances on goal, but couldn't put the puck in the net. They pushed their lead in shots to 2-to-1 though, thanks to another defensive penalty, this time by Radek Martinek. Despite the frequent opportunities, they found themselves without a goal, and almost without Kovalchuk, who went down hard in front of DiPietro's crease, and left the ice for a few shifts.
Having served his sentence, Martinek got the offense started for the Islanders with a fine defensive play, as he picked-off a two-zone pass by de Vries at the Islanders' blueline, and hit Arron Asham with a long-range pass of his own. A nifty fake by Yashin drew two defensemen to the right side of the ice, freeing up Asham for a give-and go with Miroslav Satan, who buried a wrister for his seventh of the season.
Atlanta was able to contain the hosts for most of the first, until the final six minutes, when the line of Robert Nilsson, Petteri Nokelainen and Eric Godard created some chances in the offensive zone, thanks to some sharp playmaking by Nilsson. It was followed by a reversal of fortune late in the first period, that saw the Islanders go from killing a powerplay to enjoying a 5-on-3 advantage, in the span of less than a minute. Despite the man-power difference, the song would remain the same, as Satan was unable to put away a pair of point-blank chances from in-close on the right side of Berkhoel's net.
An early chance for Yashin and co. got the crowd back into the game early in the second, getting the puck deep in a flurry of shots by the line. The offensive blitz couldn't protect the lead though, as Kovalchuk tied things up on the Thrashers' fourth powerplay of the night. Slava Kozlov, who was following up on a de Vries shot from the point, swatted the puck away to the left of the net. Left alone in the crease, DiPietro scrambled to cover up, but Kovalchuk pinched in from the top of the zone quickly to deposit the puck.
Atlanta has a golden opportunity to take a lead when a blocked shot by Janne Niinimaa set Stefan off on a breakway. Niinimaa caught up to Stefan and took him down from behind, giving him a penalty shot. Facing his first penalty shot this season, DiPietro was solid, forcing Stefan to put his shot high and wide to the left. Unfortunately, Niinimaa would be whistled again, this time putting Atlanta on the powerplay, where they converted for a 2-1 lead. Kozlov and Hossa moved the puck smoothly down low, before feeding de Vries at the blueline. A blast from the center of the zone was tipped on its way to the net and found an opening.
Looking at a hefty offensive deficit, trailing the Thrashers 22-10 in shots at one point, the Islanders turned up the physical play, with Campoli throwing a crushing check deep in Atlanta's end of the ice. The increased tempo lead to an interference penalty on Atlanta, and another powerplay opportunity for the home team. This time, a bad-angle shot from Yashin snuck through Berkhoel's pads, tying up the game, thanks to a strong push to the net that earned Trent Hunter as assist.
The fans got a bit of a scare when Nokelainen followed through on a race for the puck, slamming his knee into the end boards. Though he had to be helped from the ice, he was back shortly thereafter to get back into the action. The same can be said for his teammates, who helped close the shot gap to just five. With Shane Hnidy in the box for a delay-of-game penalty, a ripper from Satan closed it to four, and put the Islanders up by one goal, as Yashin tipped it for his second powerplay goal of the night, through a screen by Hunter, who was in a physical battle in front of the crease.
An apparent fourth Islander goal, deflected in by Mattias Weinhandl off a point-shot by Alexei Zhitnik, was waved off by the referees, as they called a cross-checking penalty on Weinhandl instead. The turn of events seemed to motivate the Isles to raise their game, killing off Weinhandl's penalty with gusto, and picking up a few scoring chances along the way.
Returning to the ice, Weinhandl had a quick chance on net, kicking off a stretch of run-and-gun hockey that culminated in the Islanders' real fourth goal of the night. Skating up-ice hard, Hunter dropped the puck at the blueline to Jason Blake, who skated in on goal and unleashed a blazing wrister, tucked tightly into the upper left corner of the net, over Berkhoel's catching glove to put a cap on the period.
The third period didn't start with the same flow the second finished with, as Campoli and Niinimaa were both sent to the sin bin for hooking in the first three minutes, giving the Thrashers a lengthy 5-on-3 opportunity. Hard work on the kill and some bad luck for Kovalchuk and Bondra, each of whom shanked a couple of chances, kept Atlanta down by two.
A mostly uneventful third saw each team make a few notable plays, with Blake drove to the Thrashers' crease to try a stuff-in that was stoned, and Berkhoel flashed a fast glove-hand to rob Satan of a goal. A penalty to Shawn Bates woke up a sleepy stanza, giving the Thrashers some ice to play with. Pretty passes didn't pay off, as DiPietro got in front of the puck again and again, with several chances stopped before reaching his crease. Once freed from the box, Bates had a chance of his own, moving into Atlanta's zone on a 2-on-1 chance that slid off his stick.
A 10th Thrashers powerplay, thanks to a crosscheck by Asham, was one too many for the Islanders, as Kovalchuk pulled his team within a goal, finishing off a perfect passing play by Hossa and Savard. Just a moment later, Hossa nearly tied the game on a 1-on-1 breakaway, but was stopped by DiPietro with a leg pad save. A boarding penalty by Yashin put Atlanta back on the powerplay, but a solid kill by Bates and Shawn Bates prevented the Thrashers from setting up much of anything.
The final minutes were another nail-biter for Islanders fans, as DiPietro had to make several highlight reel saves to maintain the lead, but in the end, a pair of penalties and a pulled Berkhoel left the ice open for an open-net chance by Brad Lukowich that sailed just wide.
ICE CHIPS: 3 Stars of the Game: 1. Alexei Yashin, 2. Miroslav Satan, 3. Rick DiPietro...For the Islanders, Mark Parrish and Brent Sopel sat out with injuries, while Atlanta was without goaltenders Mike Dunham (groin) and Kari Lehtonen (groin), right wing J.P. Vigier (foot), left wing Eric Boulton (suspension) and Andy Sutton (suspension)... Four Islanders entered play Tuesday night on point-scoring streaks, led by Alexei Yashin's six-game, eight-point run. Miroslav Satan (4 in 3), Alexei Zhitnik (6 in 4) and Trent Hunter (2 in 2) also carried streaks of their own... Rookie defenseman Chris Campoli is scheduled to be the guest at the Blueline Bar & Grill, for the Bloomberg 1130 AM Radio Postgame Show.
(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
(17) Ilya Kovalchuk-(27) Patrik Stefan-(18) Marian Hossa
(13) Vyacheslav Kozlov-(16) Bobby Holik-(19) Scott Mellanby
(26) Ronald Petrovicky-(9) Marc Savard-(12) Peter Bondra
(10) Serge Aubin-(23) Jim Slater-(22) Francis Lessard
(7) Greg de Vries-(44) Jaroslav Modry
(28) Niclad Havelid-(2) Garnet Exelby
(4) Braydon Coburn-(34) Shane Hnidy
(33) Adam Berkhoel
(35) Michael Garnett