Heading into the All-Star break, the Islanders would have surely liked to have a win. But following an intense game in Pittsburgh on Tuesday, the Islanders lost 4-2 to the Carolina Hurricanes at the Coliseum on Wednesday night.
"We looked a little flat tonight, which is inexcusable for a game after a loss and coming into a game where you have four days off afterwards," Islanders goaltender Rick DiPietro said. "We talk about it all the time; we have to play with a little more desperation. We're a desperate team. We need wins. Every game is important. Every two points is important. If we're going to get out of this hole and have a chance to make the playoffs, we need to start winning."
While the Islanders have been playing well, even in some of their losses (as evidenced from their 1-0 loss to Pittsburgh on Tuesday), their second game of the back-to-back contests wasn't as highly touted.
After coming up dry in the first period and down by one goal, rookie forward Michael Grabner was once again one of the Islanders better players on the ice and scored the team's first goal to tie the score at one with a backhanded shot from the slot.
"It was 4-on-4, there was a lot of ice," Grabner said about his goal. "I got the puck in our zone and had an odd man rush. I missed on the chance before, but Fransy (Nielsen) just stopped in front of the net and he saw me standing there and he made a great play to me. It was one against one and I beat him (Cam Ward)."
DiPietro is impressed with the rookie's abilities.
Goaltender Cam Ward #30 of the Carolina Hurricanes defends the net against Michael Grabner #40 of the New York Islanders on January 26, 2011 at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Mike Stobe/NHLI via Getty Images)
"When you've got wheels like that, he's got to be one of the fastest guys in the NHL right now," DiPietro said. "If he scored on half of those breakaways that he's had, he's have 30 goals already. He's getting chances every night. When you do that, you start burying them and getting confidence. He's got that going for him right now, which is great."
Zach Boychuk gave Carolina a 1-0 lead at 14:43 of the first period. Eric Staal scored two quick goals in the second to send the Hurricanes ahead 3-1 and Brandon Sutter's goal in the third gave them a 4-1 lead.
Defenseman Andrew MacDonald netted his first goal of the season, closing the margin to 4-2 with 1:21 left in the third.
After the Islanders won the faceoff in the neutral zone, Grabner chased down the ice into the offensive zone, flying by Carolina's defensemen in the process, in time to earn his second point of the night when he set up MacDonald's goal with a pass to the top of the left faceoff circle.
It's been a break out season for MacDonald, who is skating as a against opponents top lines every night, is averaging 22:38 time on ice per game - the most minutes of any current Islanders player this season and now has added the scoring touch to his game.
While it was Grabner that put up two points, his centerman Frans Nielsen also put up an assist.
"Grabner is playing within the team concepts for us," Islanders interim head coach Jack Capuano said. "He doesn't get the minutes other guys get. He plays 12 or 13 minutes a night. He's not playing 19 or 20, but he's doing the right things and he's getting rewarded for that... He's been a player for us, that moving forward, he's going to be a good one."
"That was our best line tonight: (Frans) Nielsen, (Kyle) Okposo and Grabner," Capuano said. "They're a pretty special line. They're doing the right things... Tonight you could see in the second period, the extended zone time that the Nielsen line had. They were doing the right things and they made the right decisions with the puck."
The game was also their last game before Grabner headed down south to Raleigh, North Carolina, where he will participate in All Star Weekend.
When asked after the game what he'd be doing in the break, Grabner said, "Im going to go down to Carolina, and (I'm) hopefully (going to) win fastest skater (at the Honda NHL SuperSkills Competition)."