Park's shootout goal gives Islanders win in season finale, Dubielewicz makes 48 saves
It was only fitting that the Islanders ended the 2007-08 season against their archrivals in a shootout. Richard Park scored in the fourth round, while Wade Dubielewicz shut the door against Petr Prucha to secure the 4-3 victory over the Rangers, Friday night at Madison Square Garden. Dubielewicz made an incredible 48 saves to earn his third shootout victory over the Rangers in three chances.
"It has been a very long season, and the one thing with this group of guys is they never quit," said head coach Ted Nolan. "They kept working, and tonight was another example of that. The last week or so we played Pittsburgh, New Jersey and the Rangers; we didn't have any easy opponents. We didn't take the easy way out, which is a good sign."
The line of Blake Comeau, Richard Park and Kyle Okposo combined for five goals, including three in the shootout, and two assists to cap off their nine games together.
"We've gelled really quickly together," said Comeau. "It was nice to play with those two guys. We all complemented each other very well. Parky did a great job being the older guy and helping us out. (Okposo) did a really good job since he was up. It was exciting playing together. I'm glad we got off to a good start and were able to contribute."
Added Park about his linemates, "They played great. Everyone who came up played real hard for our hockey club. That's all you can ask for."
Dubielewicz was the star of the game, stopping 32 shots in the second and third periods combined. With hopes of home ice advantage in the playoffs on the line, the Rangers threw everything they had at Dubielewicz, but he kept them off the board when it mattered most.
"It was certainly satisfying," said Dubielewicz. "The guys have played great in front of me and it was nice to finish off the season with a win."
Park scored a shorthanded goal, while skating 3-on-5 and added an assist. Okposo and Miroslav Satan also scored for the Islanders, who won the season series 5-3-0. The Islanders killed all eight power play chances against.
The Islanders led 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2, but the Rangers countered each time in regulation forcing overtime. In the overtime session, the Rangers out-shot the Islanders 4-3, but once again Dubielewicz was up to the task, sending it into a shootout, where he was 6-1 prior to tonight's game.
Okposo went first in the shootout, using a sneaky shot through Henrik Lundqvist's five-hole for a 1-0 advantage. Brendan Shanahan went next for the Rangers, but Dubielewicz denied the 600-plus goal scorer with a high glove save, giving the Islanders an early advantage.
In the second round, Comeau slipped a puck through the legs of Lundqvist, giving the Islanders a 2-0 advantage, putting the game in Dubielewicz's hands. But just like any epic Islanders-Rangers battle, the win would not come easy for the Islanders. Nigel Dawes made a slick move to score on the backhand and Fredrik Sjostrom evened the shootout at two after Sean Bergenheim failed to score.
The night was complete when the third leg of the Comeau-Park-Okposo line scored. Park, like he had earlier with his shorthanded goal, waited for Lundqvist to go down and then ripped a high wrist shot off of his glove and into the back of the net.
The third time was a charm as Dubielewicz knocked aside Prucha's attempt, giving the Islanders a stunning 4-3 shootout win in the final game of the season. The loss prevented the Rangers from catching the fourth-place New Jersey Devils and securing home ice in the playoffs.
"We always hear that there is nothing to play for," said Nolan. "I strongly disagree with that; we always have something to play for. To just go through the motions isn't the right thing to do, and we never did that, which is a great thing."
The Comeau-Park-Okposo line got things started in the first period. The Islanders went up 1-0 on Okposo's second career NHL goal. Park and Comeau made a series of passes in the defensive and neutral zones to skate the puck in the offensive zone. Comeau made one final pass to Okposo streaking down the slot. Okposo made no mistake with his wrist shot, burying it with 9:50 remaining in the first period.
Dan Girardi tied the game at one, 2:29 into the second period with a wrist shot from the slot.
Less than a week out of college, Islanders defenseman Jack Hillen made a splash on hockey's biggest scene. Hillen set-up his first NHL goal for a 2-1 Islanders lead at 5:40 of the second period. Hillen's shot was initially stopped, but Satan poked home the rebound.
"It was incredible out there," said Hillen. "I don't know any other adjective out there except incredible. It was fun. I got hit in the first shift, so it kind of woke me up and got me going in the game."
Nigel Dawes scored a fluke goal with 6:50 to go in the first period when his shot from the point caromed off Trent Hunter and past Dubielewicz, who was screened on the play.
The Islanders looked as if they would go down for the first time in the game when Josef Vasicek and Bryan Berard were given penalties with 5:02 remaining in the second period, setting up a dangerous 5-on-3 power play for the full two minutes.
The Rangers went with five forwards, and the gamble did not pay off. Park scored an incredible goal to swing the momentum back in the Islanders' favor. In the defensive zone, Radek Martinek pushed the puck by Jaromir Jagr and Shanahan, who were playing the points, giving Park a clear breakaway. Park wristed a shot off of Lundqvist's glove and over the goal line with 4:53 to play in the second period.
The Rangers tied the game at three, 4:20 into the third period when Jagr converted on a 2-on-1 with Straka, leading to a tense finish at the Garden.
For minutes at a time, Dubielewicz withstood a barrage of shots and the young Islanders defense held their ground against a more experienced Rangers team.
In overtime, the Islanders had a golden opportunity to pick up the win when they were rewarded a power play with under two minutes to play. This time, Lundqvist, who made 29 saves, was up to the task, sending the game into a shootout.
In the shootout, Okposo and Comeau scored to put the Islanders up 2-0, but Dawes and Sjostrom countered to send it into extra rounds. After Park went high to the glove side, Dubielewicz stopped Prucha to improve to 3-2-0 against the Rangers all-time.
Despite the jubilation in winning the final game so dramatically, Park put things in perspective.
"We're disappointed in not reaching the postseason and there's nothing that we can do to take that disappointment away," said Park. "It's nice to win, but it doesn't overshadow the fact that we're disappointed and there's sadness in our locker room, especially amongst the older guys. We had really high expectations throughout the whole year. It's a little bit of a band-aid over the wound, but the hurt is still there."
Five Stars of the Game 1. Wade Dubielewicz: You can't say enough about Dubielewicz, who played remarkably behind a young team down the stretch, 19 saves in the second period, 7-1 in the shootout, 2-0 in the final game of a season – both by shootouts 2. Richard Park: Was given the task of acclimating Comeau and Okposo to the NHL and in only a few short weeks made them a dominant line in their final games together…Look out in 2007-08; 1 goal, 1 assist, +2, 21:32, 4 shots 3. Kyle Okposo: Has gotten better every game, his hands are really starting to show out there and came through in his toughest challenge in his short NHL career; 2 goals (SO), +1, 19:21 TOI, 3 shots 4. Blake Comeau: Never looked any better than on a line with Park and Okposo, 1 assist, +1, 17:54 TOI, 4 hits 5. Jack Hillen: For the second game in a row looked poised against the Rangers, 1 assist, +1, 15:25 TOI, 3 blocked shots
Stat of the Game: The Islanders are 6-0 all-time against the Rangers in season-ending games
Slapshots: …Richard Park scored a 3-on-5 goal against Pittsburgh on January 15, 2007…Blake Comeau and Kyle Okposo is each 1-for-2 in the shootout in the NHL…Rob Davison led the Islanders with four blocked shots and tied for the team lead with Comeau 4 hits
BRIDGEPORT REPORT Kyle Okposo, Drew Fata, Frans Nielsen, Blake Comeau, Mike Morrison, Matt Keith and Jeremy Colliton will return to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers to help in their pursuit of the postseason. Bridgeport won 6-5 tonight in a shootout against Philadelphia. Jeff Tambellini tallied three goals and two assists…Bridgeport plays Saturday evening against Hershey…Bridgeport is three points behind Hershey for the final playoff spot in the East Division with six games to play. Hershey has five games remaining on their schedule.
2008 DRAFT LOTTERY UPDATE
With the 4-3 shootout win tonight over the Rangers, the Islanders have secured their spot in the 2008 draft lottery set for Monday at 8 pm.
The Islanders will finish in the 26th spot, meaning they will have an 8.1% of winning the draft lottery and thus moving from the fifth spot in the first round to the first spot.
If neither the Islanders nor teams 22-25 win the draft lottery, the Islanders will select fifth in the first round of the NHL Entry Draft taking place in Ottawa on Saturday, June 21.
The National Hockey League Draft Drawing will take place Monday, April 7, at 8 p.m. ET at the NHL’s New York City office. Representing the Islanders at the draft lottery will be Mike Bossy.
The League, in cooperation with TSN, further announced that the results of the Draft Drawing will be televised live by TSN in Canada; VERSUS in the U.S.; and NHL Network in the U.S. and Canada. Furthermore, the results will be streamed live on NHL.com and TSN.ca and broadcast live on XM Satellite Radio.
The 30-minute, live program – titled “Scotiabank NHL Draft Lottery” – will begin at 8 p.m. ET and will originate from the NHL on TSN studios in Toronto.
Goaltenders 34 Wade Dubielewicz
33 Mike Morrison
Goaltenders 30 Henrik Lundqvist
40 Stephen Valiquette
27 Paul Mara - 55 Christian Backman
18 Marc Staal - 3 Michal Rozsiva
5 Daniel Girardi - 51 Fedor Tyutin
82 Martin Straka - 17 Brandon Dubinsky - 68 Jaromir Jagr
16 Sean Avery - 19 Scott Gomez - 25 Petr Prucha
10 Nigel Dawes - 23 Chris Drury - 24 Ryan Callahan
34 Jason Strudwick – 44 Ryan Hollweg - 20 Fredrik Sjostrom
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