Thursday night in Edmonton, the Islanders were hoping to extend their win streak to four games, but with two goals against in the first 5:17 of play, the Islanders eventually fell 2-1 to the Oilers at Rexall Place.
“It really wasn’t a game that we deserved to win,” Islanders interim head coach Jack Capuano said. “The second and third period we played, but we took the first period off and you’re not going to win when you play 40 minutes.”
Nathan Lawson got the start in net, but after giving up goals on the first two of three shots on net, Capuano made the decision to pull the goaltender to “change the momentum of the game.”
“We came out flat and hung our goalie (Lawson) out to dry,” Islanders forward Josh Bailey said.
Lawson was replaced with backup goaltender Kevin Poulin, who made an unexpected rookie debut. But for a rookie who was recalled for the first time on January 4, Poulin played an outstanding game. He saved all 19 shots he faced in 54:43 of play.
“Kevin did great,” Capuano said. “He kept us in the game. He made some great saves. Like I’ve said, I have no problem with our goaltending. We have some good ones here and we’ll use them.”
While the Isles may use their young talent, Poulin wasn’t expecting to make his first NHL appearance as a backup goaltender and said that he would have preferred the pregame jitters to the surprise.
Kevin Poulin #60 of the New York Islanders plays the puck past a charging Ryan Jones #28 of the Edmonton Oilers at Rexall Place on January 6, 2011 in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)
“When you’re backing up, it’s different than when you start a game,” Poulin said. “You’re not as in to (the game), but that’s a backup's job. When you have to go in, you have to go in.”
Poulin handled himself very well, but he said he owed a lot to his teammates.
“I think my team played really well,” Poulin said. “We outshot them. My defensemen were there for me. They helped me a lot. I thought we played well. So I was pretty comfortable on the ice.”
When Capuano pulled Lawson, the Islanders definitely got the wakeup call. They responded by increasing their energy and stepping up the level of play, leaving the Oilers scoreless from that point forward. And through three periods, the Islanders outshot the Oilers 31-22.
“We had our chances and we had some good looks, but they were (hanging out in the) perimeter and there wasn’t really net presence in front of (Devan) Dubnyk,” Capuano said. “But take nothing away from (the Oilers). They played a good hockey game tonight.”
This was an opportunity for the Islanders special teams to shine. In the last two games, the Islanders have been strong in that area, but tonight’s matchup changed those statistics. After Gilbert Brule scored on a rebound at 3:22 of the first period, Dustin Penner scored a shorthanded goal at 5:17.
Andrew Cogliano #13 of the Edmonton Oilers and Milan Jurcina #27 of the New York Islanders fall while fighting for the puck at Rexall Place on January 6, 2011 in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)
But that was just the beginning. The Islanders had seven power play opportunities, but failed to convert on even one.
“In the end, the start ended up costing us the game,” Islanders forward Matt Moulson said. “We had chances on the power play, especially on the 5-on-3 at the end. We did well in past games, but we didn’t burry our chances tonight on the power play.”
The Islanders did however score to close the differential 2-1, when Blake Comeau scored at 13:00 of the second period. Bailey skated behind the goal and tried to stuff the puck through Dubnyk, but then passed to Rob Schremp behind the goal line. Schremp then found Comeau at the top of the right faceoff circle to slap a shot through Bailey’s screen.
“I thought we worked extremely hard,” Moulson said. “We had a lot of chances, a lot of close chances. It’s just the way (the puck) bounces sometimes.”
The Islanders had their opportunity to tie the score in the final 4:28 of play as the Islanders had a two man advantage for 1:39, but they couldn’t find the back of the net.
“AMac (Andrew MacDonald) had a lot of clean looks and I got a tip on that one where (Dubnyk) made a glove save,” Moulson said. “But (Dubnyk) made some big saves and we had a couple errant passes that if they were a little crisper, would have been good scoring chances.”
While the Isles lost the game, Poulin was happy with his first performance on the big stage and said he hopes to get another opportunity.