DOWN, BUT NOT OUT
By Kerry Gwydir and Chris Botta
The injury-riddled Islanders were game again tonight, but the defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning scored three goals in the third period to win 5-2, in a crucial matchup for both teams fighting for playoff berths.
Ruslan Fedotenko scored mid-way through the third period to break a 2-2 tie. Frederik Modin's slapper was deflected by Chris Campoli and then caromed off the shaft of Fedotenko for the fluky go-ahead goal.
Martin St. Louis, an Islander-killer all season, scored at 14:27, set up by a perfect two-line pass by goalie John Grahme. While two men up for virtually the rest of the game, the Lightning added a goal by Modin at 17:33.
As they have since the trade deadline, and even with the loss of No. 1 defensemen Alexei Zhitnik to injury, the Islanders played hard and well until they hit the wall when Tampa scored the eventual game-winner. Long Island's team remains 5 points behind eighth-place Montreal, whom the Islanders host at Nassau Coliseum on Tuesday night.
The Islanders converted just 1:46 into tonight's game when Bruno Gervais tallied his first NHL goal when his point shot eluded Lightning goaltender John Grahame and was eventually knocked over the goal line. A faceoff win by Wyatt Smith in the Tampa zone went to Jeff Tambellini, who whished a pass back to Gervais at the right point. The rookie blueliner's wrist shot was deflected by a Tampa stick on the way in as it initially hit the post to Grahame's right.
The Lightning began to find their legs soon after and pointed their arsenal at goaltender Rick DiPietro. The Islander goalkeeper, starting his seventh-straight contest, made a pair of in-tight stops on Martin Cibak including one where the Bolt's center whacked a rebound out of mid-air and on net.
A penalty to the Isle's Smith in the final four minutes of the first helped provide the hosts with their first tally of the night. Defenseman Pavel Kubina converted a giveaway by Chris Campoli to the right of DiPietro after Campoli had been harassed from behind by Ryan Craig.
The Islanders answered right back, and it was a play by rookie Robert Nilsson that led to Alexei Yashin's 23rd of the season with two minutes left. Nilsson beat Tampa defenseman Paul Ranger to a loose puck in the Lightning zone and made a strong move to the front of the Bolt's net. Grahame made that stop, but Yashin followed it up and slammed home his fifth in as many contests.
As the Isles tried to close out the period unscathed and following several great stops by DiPietro, Vinny Lecavalier poked home a centering pass with 27 seconds left in the second. Vinny Prospal found the Lightning center unchecked after the Isles spent the final two minutes of the period attempting to survive constant Tampa pressure.
Notes: On the injury front, C Mike York missed his second-straight game with a mild concussion...FSN's Joe Micheletti reported that during the second intermission legendary coach Scott Bowman asked him, "Where did they get this Bergenheim kid"? High praise indeed.
(55) Jason Blake-(79) Alexei Yashin-(21) Robert Nilsson
(10) Sean Bergenheim -(17) Shawn Bates-(81) Miroslav Satan
(15) Jeff Tambellini-(28) Wyatt Smith-(7) Trent Hunter
(26) Rob Collins-(27) Jeremy Colliton-(49) Eric Godard
(4) Joel Bouchard-(24) Radek Martinek
(3) Denis Grebeshkov-(6) Bruno Gervais
(14) Chris Campoli-(44) John Erskine
(39) Richard DiPietro
(30) Garth Snow
(33) Fred Modin-(19) Brad Richards-(26) Marty St. Louis
(20) Vinny Prospal-(4) Vinny Lecavalier-(17) Ruslan Fedotenko
(34) Ryan Craig-(27) Tim Taylor-(76) Evgeny Artukhin
(11) Chris Dingman-(8) Martin Cibak-(29) Dmitry Afanasenkov
(5) Darryl Sydor-(21) Cory Sarich
(44) Nolan Pratt-(13) Pavel Kubina
(54) Paul Ranger-(22) Dan Boyle
(47) John Grahame
(50) Gerald Coleman