Isles Lose To Pens In Shootout Thriller

The stage was set. It was the final home game of the season for the New York Islanders and it was against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Trevor Gillies, Matt Martin, Zenon Konopka and Micheal Haley were all in the line-up, the same outlaws that were seen living in the penalty boxes the last time the Penguins came to the Coliseum. Talbot, Godard, Adams and Asham were dressed as well and it appeared that the re-match that everyone was waiting for would not disappoint.

Although there wasn't a 9-3 finish or a player getting into two fights in one shift, there were a couple of haymakers thrown and an exciting conclusion in a 4-3 shootout loss for the Islanders. Trevor Gillies and Eric Godard, like the last time these two teams met, had an appointment match at center ice that clearly was won in Gillies' favor, sending the former Islander to the ice. Arron Asham and Zenon Konopka fought as well in a more evenly fought duel right in front of the penalty boxes. Both fights occurred in the first period and were the only ones of the game.

Matt Martin was one player who was expecting a little bit more from their division rivals.

"It was definitely on my mind. I was definitely expecting it," said Martin in regards to the possibility of a Pens skater challenging him after his center ice incident with Talbot last game, an incident that resulted in a four-game suspension.

"Definitely I would have obliged. After what happened you got to kind of stand up and own up to something like that. I absolutely would have fought if it came to that but it was a tight game all the way through. The refs were handing out some pretty hefty penalties. The league, the refs got their point across pretty early and it was a pretty tight game after that."

And the refs did exactly that. Both Godard and Gillies were handed ten-minute misconducts. Konopka received one as well, including an instigating minor for a total of 17 penalty minutes on the play.

"They (the refs) were trying to keep it within the rules of the game early and I thought they did a pretty good job," said Martin.

"I've been saying all along, usually when things are as hyped as this game was, you don't usually match that intensity. It's not like it was a meaningless game for them. They're still battling for first place in the Atlantic. They played hard, we played hard, it was a great game to watch."

The most exciting part of the game was when Travis Hamonic, who was one of Daniel Friedman's players to watch in his pre-game blog, tied the game up at three with just about 35 seconds remaining in the third period. The rookie blue liner, who is more like a veteran considering the inexperienced defenseman that were dressed for the game, got a pass at the point and ripped a slap shot that beat Marc-Andre Fleury down low to his right for his 4th goal and 25th point of the season.

"We put a lot of pressure down in their end and obviously coming off that disallowed goal I think we wanted to make sure that we came out and tried to generate some sort of offense there," said Hamonic. "Kyle made a really nice pass over to me, and like I said I got a hold of my shot and that's something that happens not every time but I guess that God was probably on my side there and helped me get that puck in."

It was probably the biggest goal of his young career and ignited an Islanders fan base to the loudest it has been all season long in front of a sellout crowd of 16,250 fans.

The Islanders trailed 2-0 after goals came from Mike Rupp in the first period, who put a backhand shot passed Al Montoya, and Zbynek Michalek, who fired a slapshot home on the power play in the second period. But the Isles would later receive a goal from Blake Comeau after he buried a rebound in front of Fleury in the middle frame. Moulson and Joensuu had the assists. Later in the third Comeau would score again after Grabner sped around the Pens net to find his linemate all alone in front with an empty net staring at him in the face for his 24th goal of the year. A few minutes later Mark Letestu would seemingly kill the Islanders momentum with the go-ahead goal. The drama continued to mount when the Islanders would tie the game but have the goal disallowed as Tavares was ruled to have been in the crease when the puck crossed the line, but Hamonic's slapper proved that the Islanders weren't going quietly.

"We got a young group and a lot of teams might have packed it in or not, but there's no real quit in us," said Kyle Okposo." We just want to get the two points. We don't care about what the standings say. We know that we're out of it and that we're not going to go to the playoffs but we want to win the games still and that shows that we got a competitive bunch in here and it bodes well for our future."

Okposo's mentality will have to be carried into Philadelphia tomorrow as the Islanders will prepare to get a win in a building that hasn't been too kind to them over the past few years. It's their last game of the year; their last chance to get one more win.

"We'd like to win. I know we haven't won there in a long time," said Tavares. "We want to play well there. It's our last game of the year. You want to go into the summer on a high note, on a good note. and feeling good about yourself and as a team. It's our last game with these bunch of guys together in this locker room so you want to play for each other and get a win."

But regardless of the out come, Tavares is confident in knowing that this team has continued to build in the right direction and has a bright future, already looking forward to next October.

"Everything about our organization is really looking great," Tavares added. "The prospects, the guys we have now, the guys coming back from injuries getting healthy. It's going to be a great summer I think with guys getting better and training hard and like I said I hope it goes by quick because we're excited."

-Rob McGowan

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