Last time the Islanders lost by four goals was just last week, at home to the Wild, when the combination of bad penalties and poor penalty killing let the game get away from them.
The same recipe applied last night, as the Islanders took bad penalties early, allowed power play goals all night and were outshot 38-27.
Straight from the coach's mouth:
"I'm upset about the penalties," coach Scott Gordon said after the Islanders gave Montreal eight power plays. "If you're going to take a penalty, it's to save a goal. I don't think there were too many saved goals tonight."
The added wrinkle last night was the fact the two best Islanders, Mark Streit and Kyle Okposo, were out injured. On top of that, penalty killer Andy Hilbert was felled by a rib injury half way into the game. Add a back-to-back against a hungry Canadiens team after the Islanders had an emotional game with the Caps the night before, and you've got a let down.
With the game quickly out of reach, there was some concern at Botta's blog about Joel Rechlicz being schooled by Georges Laraque -- and he certainly was, but not in the way you might think. As I mused in the game thread, Laraque cleverly took advantage of the 21-year-old rookie by subtly backing up -- all the while smiling and using over-theatric body language to lie to the whole arena and pretend that Rechlicz wasn't up for the fight. Laraque essentially demanded Rechlicz make the first move (and fall into his trap), and the rookie had to respond in kind because he's the new guy, and Laraque's reputation is already sealed.
I must confess, I hardly noticed the two call-ups, Trevor Smith and Sean Bentivoglio. Bentivoglio may have left the smallest impression of any of the now-13 Islanders to make their NHL debuts this season -- though that's not so much a knock on Bridgeport hat trick hero Bentivoglio as it is a reflection of how well the Islanders youngsters have done in this Season of Youth.
Goalie Battle Thickens
The larger disappointment -- and this goes hand-in-hand with much of the Islanders' (and any other team's) fortunes this season -- was in goal. After a great, sustained run that had Scott Gordon describing him as "playing like a No. 1," Yann Danis has now had four rather un-No.1-like games in a row.
It's interesting, this battle of the unrestricted free agent back-ups: Every goalie who has reached the NHL level is in that oh-so-thin tier of elite goaltenders in the world. They're all capable of a sustained run of brilliance, which is how Jim Carey, Patrick Lalime and Johan Hedberg had top-of-the-world starts to their careers before settling back into ... well, another part of the NHL world. Separating the upper crust within that elite sliver is the hard part, and requires multiple run-throughs in the NHL laboratory.
|08-09 - Yann Danis||27||1596||9||14||3||1||73||2.74||851||778||.914||2|
|08-09 - Joey MacDonald||46||2658||14||25||6||7||143||3.23||1482||1339||.904||1|
Both Danis and MacDonald have been blocked by depth and lack of opportunity in their careers, before filling emergency roles this season on the NHL's worst team. Both have also had multi-week runs this season that made us wonder whether all they ever needed was this chance. And both have followed those moments in the spotlight with mini-slumps that make us ponder whether the Islanders should think bigger for a "backup" next season, when Rick DiPietro will suit for a game for the first time in 10 months.
Five games left. A handful of starts for each. Presumably Danis is still in the lead -- better stats, higher praise, etc. -- but the gap has narrowed.
Ah well, at least this particular loss made the Rangers sweat.