LECAVALIER TO ST. LOUIS = HEARTBREAKER
By Kerry Gwydir and Chris Botta
Martin St. Louis, announced yesterday to miss 2-4 weeks of action and instead work in the Tampa Bay broadcast booth, scored the winning goal with 1:43 left in regulation to give the Lightning a 3-2 win over the Islanders tonight.
St. Louis stuffed home a neat kick-pass from Vincent Lecavalier, who stood just outside the crease and slid the rebound of a point shot from Pavel Kubina over to the 2003-04 Hart Trophy winner. St. Louis was fitted with a special cast on his finger so he could play tonight.
"A very difficult loss," said Islanders defenseman Brad Lukowich. "Not just because they scored on us late, but because of all the chances we had early on and didn't take advantage of.
Alexei Yashin tied the game at 2-2 just 57 seconds into the third period when he took a soft rebound of an Arron Asham shot and fired it over the shoulder of Tampa Bay goaltender John Grahame. For Yashin, it was his tenth goal of the year and extended a personal point streak to five games.
But perhaps the game shouldn't have been so tight heading into the third. The Islanders had several chances to put their opponents in a deep hole early but failed to convert. Steve Stirling's team carried the play in the first period and forced several excellent scoring chances but either missed the net or were victimized by great saves by Grahame. Either way, they only had a 1-1 tie to show for it going into period two.
"Too many good opportunities in the first period to only come out of there with one goal," said Stirling. "We have to get some of those shots on net." The Islanders out-shot the Lightning, 36-31 and clearly had the edge on scoring chances.
Rick DiPietro got the start in the pipes for the Isles, following up Garth Snow's stellar performance in Atlanta on Wednesday night. The goaltender was sharp in the early stages of the game as he blocked off in-close attempts by St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier. He also mixed it up with Lightning forward Evgeni Artyukin, who was having words with Chris Campoli after one stoppage of play.
Robert Nilsson put the Isles on top at the 5:35 mark just as a penalty to Tampa's Paul Ranger had ended. The rookie one-timed a beautiful no-look spin-o-rama pass from the slot from Alexei Yashin behind Grahame. Yashin had out-worked three Tampa players to get to a rebound.
"Awesome play by Yash," said Nilsson. "He used his strength to get the puck away from the defender and made an incredible pass to me. I had the easy part."
The hosts tied the contest late in the first with 1:28 to go when Ruslan Fedotenko potted his fifth of the season. Vinny Prospal made a pretty feed from behind the Islander net that had DiPietro moving off the post, where Fedotenko wound up placing his shot.
Another pretty display of playmaking netted the hosts their second goal of the night with 8:11 to go in the second when Brad Richards slid home a puck in the crease past a diving DiPietro. A pretty behind-the-back dish by St. Louis along the goal line froze the Isle's coverage long enough for Richards to crash the net and poke the puck over the goal line.
The Islander's power play was 0-5. On the PK, the Islanders killed 5 of 5...Yashin led the Islanders with seven shots on goal...Brent Sopel played a team-high 25:25 and was plus-1...
Stirling didn't exactly roll four lines, but his fourth line of Weinhandl-Kvasha-Godard saw plenty of shifts, including when the game was tight early in the third. Weinhandl and Kvasha played ten shifts each, while Godard had seven. "Especially on back-to-backs and on a long trip, we need everybody playing and producing. Matty, Oleg and Godsy did a nice job for us these last two games." Petteri Nokelainen (knee) and Tomi Pettinen were the Islander's scratches.
(45) Arron Asham-(79) Alexei Yashin-(37) Mark Parrish
(21) Robert Nilsson-(16) Mike York-(81) Miroslav Satan
(55) Jason Blake-(17) Shawn Bates-(7) Trent Hunter
(49) Eric Godard-(12) Oleg Kvasha-(11) Mattias Weinhandl
(77) Alexei Zhitnik-(3) Brent Sopel
(25) Brad Lukowich-(44) Janne Niinimaa
(14) Chris Campoli-(24) Radek Martinek
(39) Rick DiPietro
(30) Garth Snow
(17) Ruslan Fedotenko-(4) Vincent Lecavalier-(20) Vinny Prospal
(33) Fred Modin-(19) Brad Richards-(26) Martin St. Louis
(76) Evgeny Artyukin-(27) Tim Taylor-(8) Martin Cibak
(29) Dmitry Afanasenkov-(25) Dave Andreychuk-(18) Rob Dimaio
(54) Paul Ranger-(22) Dan Boyle
(5) Darryl Sydor-(21) Cory Sarich
(44) Nolan Pratt-(13) Pavel Kubina
(47) John Grahame
(1) Sean Burke