UNIONDALE, NY- Perhaps using the French phrase “la dernière place” sounds nicer than saying the Islanders are in last place. But whether spoken or read in French or English, the results were the same as a battered Islanders squad fell, 5-1, to Montreal at the Nassau Coliseum.
After veterans Saku Koivu and Mathieu Schneider scored in the first for an early 2-0 lead, the playoff-bound Canadiens held on and led wire-to-wire to beat an injury depleted Islanders team Thursday night. It was the Isles third straight loss as the club all but locked up the NHL’s worst record.
With five regular season
games remaining, the Isles (25-43-9) stand at 59 points and Colorado, the next-worst team, has 64 points. The only positive news from finishing in the basement is the guarantee of a top-two draft pick in the lottery.
Montreal found success on the power play, finishing 3-8 with the man advantage. The Islanders lost the fights too, with Joel Rechlicz getting dropped by Georges Laraque. Doug Weight, who has not be known as a fighter
in his 18-year career, initiated his second fight in three games when he squared off against Mathieu Dandenault late in the third.
“Those are the games you need to get the puck in good spots, stay out of the [penalty] box and stay extra disciplined,” said Doug Weight, the most veteran Islander who played last night. “We weren’t tonight.
“We didn’t put the puck in great spots. Having said, we still played pretty good five-on-five. It’s a disappointing effort from our team for the first time in awhile.”
Before the contest, the Islanders announced the Coliseum will host the first two home games for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, the team’s minor league affiliate. The move made sense since many Bridgeport call-ups have been pressed into NHL service as injuries continue to plague the roster.
Mark Streit and Kyle Okposo, the team’s most productive defensive and offensive players, respectively, were scratched along with Sean Bergenheim and Dean McAmmond. Entering the evening, the Isles lost 532 man games to injury. Montreal capitalized on the Isles inexperience and lack of depth, forging a four-goal lead just 23:12 into the contest.
The bad news didn’t stop there for Islanders coach Scott Gordon. Andy Hilbert played just 9:41 before leaving the game with a rib injury. Nine players on the team’s game-night roster has spent time in Bridgeport, leaving the Islanders overmatched against a desperate Canadiens team clinging to the Eastern Conference’s eighth and final playoff spot.
“Some of the penalties we had, we deserved, no question about it,” Gordon said. “That’s bothersome because we talk about
it all the time. If you’re going to take a penalty, its got to save a goal. I don’t think there were too many that saved goals tonight.”
The first intermission didn’t help settle goalie Yann Danis, who gave up a goal to Alex Tanguay 71 seconds into the second period before defenseman Andrei Markov notched his 12th goal off Koivu’s pass on the power play 2:01 later for a 4-0 lead.
But Gordon elected to keep Danis in the game instead of replacing him with Joey MacDonald, who started the day before in Washington. Danis again struggled out of the gate in the third period, giving up Michael Komisarek’s goal 44 seconds into the third. With a horde of Montreal fans taking up almost the entire section behind his net, Danis enjoyed one bright spot when he turned aside Tom Kostopoulos on a penalty shot attempt early in the final period. In all, he finished with 33 saves.
“I thought the game was pretty even five-on-five,” Danis said. “They killed us on their power play.”
Montreal also battled shorthanded to a degree when the flu kept goalie Carey Price off the ice. Jaroslav Halak still managed to keep the Islanders off the scoreboard, turning aside 26 of 27 shots. Jeff Tambellini’s seventh goal of the season prevented the backup from logging the shutout.