WINNING STREAK OVER AT FOUR
By Kerry Gwydir and Chris Botta
No one could question the Islanders' effort from the drop of the puck tonight, but they fell short in losing to the Thrashers, 4-2 tonight in Atlanta. The loss ended the Islanders' four-game winning streak.
"The approach was good, so was the battle level," said Islanders head coach Brad Shaw. "Atlanta really took it to us in the first period, but we maintained our composure and worked all night. I can't complain about the work ethic."
The gritty, banged-up Islanders had to recall Allan Rourke from Bridgeport Thursday to help patch up an already decimated lineup as Joel Bouchard missed the game with a knee injury. He is listed as day-to-day. Jeremy Colliton and Bruno Gervais also made it to Atlanta to fill in for the injured Alexei Zhitnik (broken ankle) and Arron Asham (ankle sprain).
As the Thrashers carried play in the first period, Atlanta struck first when Rick DiPietro was caught out of his net attempting to poke-check a loose puck from Marian Hossa, and the puck wound up in the net with 4:19 to go. The shorthanded goal came when Hossa poked a rolling puck past Chris Campoli, which allowed the Thrasher forward to bolt past the Islander coverage.
Atlanta made it a 2-0 game just 1:26 into the second when Atlanta's Sutton joined a rush late and ripped a shot past DiPietro from top of the slot. A feed from the right wing boards found Sutton cruising unchecked into the Islander zone.
The Islanders answered back just under two minutes later when Radek Martinek's shot from the right point was deflected past Lehtonen by Shawn Bates, who was situated in front. However, the enjoyment of the goal was short-lived as Scott Mellanby re-opened the two-goal lead at the 4:04 mark when he stuffed a follow-up of a Marc Savard shot behind DiPietro.
Alexei Yashin got into the thick of things as he brought the Isles back within one minutes later with a rocket that beat Lehtonen over the left shoulder. Allan Rourke started the play by pinching at the left point to keep the play alive. He then fed Sean Bergenheim, who found the Islander captain in the slot for his 22nd of the season to make it 3-2.
In the third period, Atlanta changed their pressing attack to a more conservative defense. The few scoring chances the Islanders had, Lehtonen was equal to the task. There was no doubt that the line of Yashin centering Bergenheim and Robert Nilsson was the Islanders' best for the second game in a row, another good sign to take out of tonight's game.
"I'm sure the coaches will go over some things so we can tighten it up in our own end," said Yashin. "We have to forget about the disappointment of this one and be ready for Tampa Bay tomorrow night."
Notes: Bobby Holik scored an empty-netter to close out the scoring...DiPietro made 36 saves...With the injuries on D, Shaw split his minutes on the blueline pretty equally. Radek Martinek led with 26:32.
(10) Sean Bergenheim -(79) Alexei Yashin-(21) Robert Nilsson
(7) Trent Hunter-(16) Mike York-(81) Miroslav Satan
(15) Jeff Tambellini -(17) Shawn Bates-(55) Jason Blake
(27) Jeremy Colliton-(28) Wyatt Smith-(49) Eric Godard
(38) Allan Rourke-(3) Denis Grebeshkov
(44) John Erskine-(24) Radek Martinek
(14) Chris Campoli-(12) Bruno Gervais
(39) Richard DiPietro
(30) Garth Snow
(17) Ilya Kovalchuk-(9) Marc Savard-(19) Scott Mellanby
(12) Peter Bondra-(23) Jim Slater-(18) Marian Hossa
(13) Slava Kozlov-(16) Bobby Holik-(26) Ronald Petrovicky
(36) Eric Boulton-(10) Serge Aubin-(29) Brad Larsen
(25) Andy Sutton-(28) Niclas Havelid
(2) Garnet Exelby-(7) Greg Devries
(44) Jaroslav Modry-(34) Shane Hnidy
(32) Kari Lehtonen
(1) Mike Dunham