BLAKE (HAT TRICK), LUKO (G-W) AND SNOW (36 SAVES) LEAD WAY
By Kerry Gwydir and Chris Botta
On Friday, an exasperated Alexei Yashin said, "We need to beat a good team. It starts Saturday."
The captain called it.
The Islanders had one of their biggest wins of the season today, beating the Flyers in Philadelphia 4-2. Not surprisingly, they were led by a trio of veterans who show up to play every night (and in the afternoon, too).
Jason Blake had a hat trick, clinching the game with an empty-netter with 36 seconds left in regulation. Besides his three appearances on the scoresheet, Blake was everywhere on the ice.
"Always great to see Blakey rewarded for his efforts, which are incredible every game," said Islanders coach Steve Stirling.
Fittingly, it was Islanders alternate captain Brad Lukowich -- who has given 100% on and off the ice since signing as an Islander last summer -- who scored the game-winning goal. Lukowich banged home his own rebound at 4:43 of the third to break a 2-2 tie.
"I'm trying to not get too excited about it, but it felt good," said Lukowich. "I'm really proud of how the guys played today. We lost Olli Kvasha to an injury and that left us with ten forwards. But everyone contributed -- Eric Godard, just awesome. Matty Weinhandl...Yorkie...Asham hitting every Flyer that moved. It's a good win for us we can enjoy tonight, but we have to face these guys at the Coliseum on Tuesday and we have to do it all over again."
And then there was Garth Snow. Forigive us if you've heard this before, but Snow once again came off the bench to inspire his team with superior goaltending. When he let one in he'd like to have back (by R.J. Umberger to give the Flyers a 2-1 lead after the first period), he didn't sulk. He closed the door, making 34 saves -- 25 on 25 shots in the second and third period.
"Snowy did it again for us," said Stirling.
Prior to the game, Jeremy Colliton was returned to Bridgeport. With the move, Stirling used seven defensemen, dressing Tomi Pettinen. Oleg Kvasha left the game with an ankle injury, leaving the Isles with ten forwards for much of the game. Prior to the contest, the Isles also mixed up their lines with Jason Blake joining Arron Asham and Alexei Yashin.
The move worked right away as the line combined to score just 31 seconds in when Blake found a rebound in front and deposited it behind Antero Nittymaki. Asham did most of the work on the goal by retrieving his own dump-in and taking it to the front of the Philly net as Yashin crashed the net. The lead didn't last long as the Flyers' fourth line evened things a minute later on a goal by by Umberger.
With 10:26 to go in the first, the Isles went on a 5-on-3 for 1:08 when Mike Knuble and Turner Stevenson were both shipped to the penalty box. Nittymaki was huge on the penalty kill making two acrobatic stops, one on a one-timer from Yashin and then a follow-up left leg rejection off Mark Parrish's rebound chance. Seconds after that, Miroslav Satan was called for holding the stick.
The Flyers went ahead with 3:32 to go in the opener and a delayed penalty on Blake upcoming. And it was the rookie Umberger and his fourth line teammates doing it again, this time by throwing the puck at net like he did earlier in the period. On the play, Umberger's long shot eluded Snow and hit the post, but the puck ricocheted off Snow and over the goal line.
Blake tied the game with 12:19 to go in the second with a powerplay tally after following up a Brent Sopel wrist shot that Nittymaki originally stopped. The Islander forward scored the goal on the ice after being dropped by Philly's Chris Therien prior to Mark Parrish putting Sopel's rebound at the net.
"That's Blakey for you," said Parrish, who finished the game with three assists. "He just never stops."
The Islanders were 1-4 on the power play. More impressive than the Islanders going 3-3 on the penalty kill is that they only were shorthanded three times thanks to very disciplined play...Stirling dressed Pettinen today in hopes of cutting down the icetime of Alexei Zhitnik and Brent Sopel. Pettinen played a little over six minutes, while Zhitnik and Sopel -- who each finished plus-2 for the game -- played 25 minutes each...
With the Islanders down to 11 forwards and 10 when Kvasha went down, Mike York logged 22:27 and filled in admirable in all three zones. He hit a post with four minutes left and a chance to put the game away...Blake led the Islanders with 5 shots on goal. Simon Gagne led Philadelphia with 6...Kvasha (ankle injury) will be re-evaluated back on Long Island.
(55) Jason Blake-(79) Alexei Yashin-(45) Arron Asham
(7) Trent Hunter-(16) Mike York-(81) Miroslav Satan
(11) Mattias Weinhandl-(12) Oleg Kvasha-(37) Mark Parrish
(8) Tomi Pettinen-(21) Robert Nilsson-(49) Eric Godard
(77) Alexei Zhitnik-(3) Brent Sopel
(25) Brad Lukowich-(44) Janne Niinimaa
(14) Chris Campoli-(24) Radek Martinek
(30) Garth Snow
(39) Rick DiPietro
(12) Simon Gagne-(18) Mike Richards-(22) Mike Knuble
(19) Branko Radivojevic-(26) Michal Handzus-(24) Sami Kapanen
(87) Donald Brashear-(9) Patrick Sharp-(27) Turner Stevenson
(20) RJ Umberger-(17) Jeff Carter-(11) Jon Sim
(2) Derian Hatcher-(37) Eric Desjardins
(44) Joni Pitkanen-(3) Mike Rathje
(6) Chris Therien-(5) Kim Johnsson
(30) Antero Nittymaki
(42) Robert Esche