For a change, it wasn’t Trevor Gillies’ role as an enforcer that was captured on the highlight reels. It was his first NHL goal that was a bright spot for the Islanders in a 6-4 loss to the Ottawa Senators on Thursday night at the Coliseum.
“Obviously the goal felt nice,” Gillies said. “It’s nice to get that one. I haven’t had one yet in 40 games… But now it doesn’t mean a whole lot. It would have meant a lot more if we got the two points.”
His goal, assisted by Zenon Konpka at 7:23 of the first period, tied the score at 1.
“I made a nice play, Z made a nice play,” Gillies said. “I’m going to get goals if I go to the net. I know I can score, I score in practice all the time. It might be a shocker to you guys, but it definitely is not a shocker to me.”
The Islanders never held the lead, but they did mount a comeback in the third period. Trailing 6-2, Islanders interim head coach Jack Capuano made his second goaltending change of the game, returning the game’s starter, Kevin Poulin to the net.
“Well, you have to handle it like a pro,” Capuano said of the way his goaltenders responded. “I mean, how do other guys handle it when they don’t play or they get put on different line combinations? It was good for our coaching staff too, to see what happened when they were faced with adversity. You want to see that from your team, see what kind of character you have on your team… You learn a lot about your players when you go through that and I thought Kevin responded well.”
Rejuvenated and upset about their first 40 minutes of play, the Islanders were ready to play a hard 20 minutes. PA Parenteau scored 1:49 into the final period and Milan Jurcina scored at 10:50 to bring the Islanders within two goals (6-4). But their intensity wasn’t enough to change the outcome of the game.
“We got away from what was working for us lately,” Parenteau said. “We weren’t getting the puck deep. We weren’t working hard. We were just flat. I don’t have an explanation for it. It just happened. It’s really unfortunate because we had a really good thing going for us lately. You come out and play a second period like that, it’s unacceptable.”
Parenteau said the Senators third goal was the game changer. With Nathan Lawson in net, Milan Michalek scored a shorthanded goal at 7:13 of the second period to bring the Senators ahead 3-1.
“Every time you give up a goal like that, it’s going to cost you down the road and it did tonight, 6-4 in the end,” Parenteau said. “If we don’t give up that one, it’s a different story.”
While Blake Comeau reduced the Senators lead to just one goal, knocking one in at 10:31, Ottawa scored three unanswered goals. Chris Kelly scored just 20 seconds after Comeau, followed by goals from Nick Foligno and Zack Smith, who brought the second period to a close with a 6-2 lead over the Islanders.
Ryan Shannon #26 of the Ottawa Senators and teammate Brain Lee #5 try to stop PA Parenteau #15 of the New York Islanders on January 13, 2011 at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Mike Stobe/NHLI via Getty Images)
“We took two periods off,” Capuano said. “Obviously, the effort was there in the third period, but it was just too late. That would be the most disappointing thing about tonight, that we didn’t come out with the urgency we needed.”
The first period wasn’t much better. The Senators took an early lead when Daniel Alfredsson scored during the first play off the opening faceoff, just 32 seconds into the game. Gillies tied the score, but before the period was out, Jesse Winchester came back to score one more and establish the 2-1 lead for the Senators.
After giving up two goals in the first 9:50 of play, Capuano thought it would be best to pull Poulin in favor of Lawson, and the 20-year-old rookie was extremely professional when asked about the decision.
“It’s part of hockey,” Poulin said. “Cappy pulled me because I think he wanted to switch the momentum. There was a slow start and he wanted the guys to wake up and work harder.”
Poulin was then asked to go back in and finish playing through the final 20 minutes.
“It’s a goalie’s job,” he said. “You’re going to get pulled, and sometimes you’ll have to go back in. Just always be ready.”
While Gillies recorded a milestone of his own, he takes his job on the Islanders roster very seriously and he, like the rest of the team, was disappointed in the outcome.
“It doesn’t matter if I play 20 seconds or five minutes, I have a role on this team and I take great pride in it,” Gillies said. “Obviously tonight we didn’t win, but I’m there for the guys no matter what. And that’s all that matters to me.”