The backup who was a hero last season in helping miraculously backstop the Isles into the postseason was predictably rusty in his first appearance since November 3 (3-2 win over Pit in relief). In just his second start of the year, the 28 year-old British Columbia native allowed four goals on 13 shots in a flat opening stanza for the home team including league leading goalscorer Ilya Kovalchuk's 21st only 34 seconds in off a rush.
It wouldn't get any better as Eric Boulton and Marian Hossa struck in a 50 second span before the halfway point of the first to put Atlanta up a trifecta. Slava Kozlov's seventh closed out the scoring with 13 seconds left as the Thrashers improved to 12-7 under GM Don Waddell.
"It's tough," explained a disappointed Dubielewicz later to the AP. "It just feels like we got behind the 8-ball, and I got rattled out there a bit."
The awful opening 20 minutes made it an easy night for returning Thrasher starting netminder Kari Lehtonen, who turned aside all 33 shots for a shutout.
"I thought we would be ready to play," Islander coach Ted Nolan later thought.
Usually, the Fishsticks struggle after a Ranger game. But that's when they win. This time, they were coming back to the Meadowbrook Parkway off a loss. So, one would've expected Nolan's club to be ready to go. Instead, they dropped their second straight and fell to 13-10-1 remaining in fourth place in a tight Atlantic a point behind the idle Devils.
"I was wrong. We just weren't prepared right from the beginning. We
underestimated their team speed. They really took it to us the first 5-10
minutes of the game."
Part of the problem right now is that team captain Bill Guerin hasn't been the same since an injury kept the veteran right winger out of a couple of games. With another scoreless night, the 37 year-old former New Jersey first round pick has been held without a point in 12 straight games. He's been stuck on five goals and 11 points since tallying the deciding goal in a 4-0 shutout of Tampa exactly a month prior.
Given what's expected out of the gritty power forward, the Isles' captain must elevate his game and find the back of the net or the lack of scoring is going to become a team wide epidemic.
It's little secret that the Islanders haven't been scoring enough lately. They're 5-6-1 in their last 12 and haven't reached three goals in regulation or OT. That must change if Nolan's gritty bunch is to stay in this ultra competitive division.
We'll see if Guerin and Co. can get back on track.