'WE'RE NOT QUITTING IN HERE'
By Kerry Gwydir and Chris Botta
"We're not quittin' in here," said Trent Hunter. "Until someone tells us we're done, we're going to keep on fighting."
Hunter illustrated those words with perhaps the total team shift of the season so far with about six minutes left in the Islanders' 3-1 win over the Bruins in Boston tonight. For over a minute, Hunter, his linemates Mike York and Miroslav Satan, and defensemen Alexei Zhitnik and Denis Grebeshkov battled and battled, peppering Bruins goalie Tim Thomas with shots.
When Satan, head up and eyes on the net, sent a wrister to the Bruins' net, it was Hunter with the perfect deflection that gave the Islanders a 2-1 lead at 14:59 of the third period.
As if that wasn't enough, Islanders coach Brad Shaw sent anyone and everyone out on the ice in the final minutes to protect the lead. With Thomas pulled for an extra attacker, Chris Campoli made a gorgeous clear over three Bruins and got the puck to Alexei Yashin. The Islanders captain deposited the puck in the empty net with 24 seconds left and the Islanders had their win.
Long Island's hockey team is finally back over the .500 mark for the first time since Dec. 26. They are also closer to the pack inhabited by Tampa Bay and Montreal for the final spots in the Eastern Conference playoff hunt.
"A very satisfying game," said Yashin, who led his team with seven shots. "I say that because everyone contributed. I think you can see the positive effect the young guys have had on our team."
"We lost four good players and friends," said Hunter, referring to the recently traded Mark Parrish, Brent Sopel, Brad Lukowich and Oleg Kvasha. "But that's part of the game and you always keep on playing. The new guys have added some enthusiasm and we've had two great wins the last two nights. We have to keep it going on the road next week."
The Islanders got behind 1-0 at 13:46 of the second when Brian Leetch beat Rick DiPietro from the hashmarks after Brad Boyes chipped a pass into the slot. A Mike York goal late in the second period had the game tied going into the final period.
The third period proved to be one of the Islanders' gutsiest of the season. And when they faltered, DiPietro was there to back them up every time. DiPietro made 32 saves. After allowing only three goals total over three consecutive Islander wins -- including being the best player in two shootout victories -- he will likely receive strong consideration for NHL Defensive Player of the Week.
"I say it all the time," said Shaw. "When we win, Ricky is usually our best player. That was the case again tonight, but he had a lot of competition. I was really happy with the effort."
NOTES: No disrespect to Tim Thomas, who was brilliant, but somehow the Bruins goalie was named the game's No. 1 star despite the loss. DiPietro was No. 2 and Hunter No. 3...Give it up for Joel Bouchard, who was run repeatedly and gave the Islanders 22 minutes of heart and soul defense...York and Satan were plus-3...Alexei Zhitnik made it a 60-minute double-dip after playing 29 minutes tonight. Grebeshkov was plus-2 and played almost 20 minutes.
(15) Jeff Tambellini-(79) Alexei Yashin-(21) Robert Nilsson
(7) Trent Hunter -(16) Mike York-(81) Miroslav Satan
(55) Jason Blake-(17) Shawn Bates-(45) Arron Asham
(10) Sean Bergenheim-(28) Wyatt Smith-(49) Eric Godard
(4) Joel Bouchard-(3) Denis Grebeshkov
(77) Alexei Zhitnik-(24) Radek Martinek
(14) Chris Campoli-(44) John Erskine
(39) Richard DiPietro
(30) Garth Snow
(16) Marco Sturm-(37) Patrice Bergeron-(26) Brad Boyes
(29) Mariusz Czerkawski-(36) Marty Reasoner-(27) Glen Murray
(28) Dan Lacouture-(20) Wayne Primeau-(39) Travis Green
(83) Pat Leahy-(43) Yan Stastny-(12) Tom Fitzgerald
(22) Brian Leetch-(41) Andrew Alberts
(25) Hal Gill-(6) Brad Stuart
(45) Mark Stuart-55) Dave Tanabe
(30) Tim Thomas
(1) Andy Raycroft