It was precisely a moment like this that the Islanders got Rob Schremp for. Scoreless through two rounds of the shootout, the man a million tricks in his magic bag skated from the red line, making a zillion moves before curling and dragging to wire a perfect forehand beyond Steve Mason's outstretched pads.Dwayne Roloson, who was quite busy making 41 saves, had to stop one more shooter. After staying with Rick Nash, he did the same forcing ex-Ranger Fedor Tyutin out of real estate and wide, giving the hosts the final home win of the decade in front of an excited Coliseum.
Islanders 2 Blue Jackets 1
It was the third win in four for the Isles, helping offset an unlucky 13th consecutive defeat to the Flyers. Despite being outshot 42-25, Scott Gordon's club came out with the 'W', improving to 16-18-7 for 39 points. At exactly the halfway point, they're in a three-way tie for 10th just a point behind Atlanta and the Rangers for the final playoff spot while Montreal is seventh only two points up. Not bad position for a rebuilding club no one gave a chance. Unless you count Stan Fischler. Hey. We know him quite well and he always sees the glass half full. If you're the eternal optimist, you can argue why not based on the fact prize rookie John Tavares was held off the score sheet again, scoring once over the past 10.
The poor stretch by the Isles hasn't cost them due to how much parity there is. If JT91 and Kyle Okposo (assist) get untracked along with Mark Streit (0 G in last 21), why not? As long as Rollie keeps them in games, you never know. When asked to assess the first half, the durable 40 year-old netminder didn't hesitate to say he feels they can aim higher than the eighth seed, going as far as five or six. It's probably unrealistic but making the playoffs no longer is. And wouldn't that be great to achieve? In an Olympic Year, there's still a long way to go. When does Rick DiPietro return? He could be headed for another rehab stint in Bridgeport before the organization reassesses. As long as Roloson and Martin Biron play adequately, there's no reason to rush DP back.
As for the game, they'll take it. The Jackets were coming off a superb effort in a 1-0 OT shutout of Detroit after acquiring Milan Jurcina and Chris Clark from the Caps for Jason Chimera. Both new Jackets debuted, contributing to another solid effort like the one that snapped a nine-game skid. Despite controlling the first with an excellent attack that forced Roloson to make saves from in tight, they fell behind when Steve Mason lost sight of Okposo's 40-footer with the puck caroming high in the air behind him where Josh Bailey finished off his eighth at 10:04. Originally, it was credited to Okposo but later changed to Bailey from Kyle and Andy Sutton, who's played inspired this year.
Despite being doubled up in SOG (14-7), they led after one. The second was similar with the offensively challenged Jackets trying desperately to break the Roloson wall, eerily reminding us of the Rangers. Hey. We can't score either and Rollie has played great against us. Ken Hitchcock's club again registered 14 shots but still hadn't beaten him. They led 28-15 but not on the scoreboard.
It didn't deter them from coming hard where finally, they got the equalizer thanks to a bit of luck. Off a great Rick Nash keep at the left blueline, the puck trickled right to R.J. Umburger, who made a quick move around the net and sent an innocent looking backhand wrap towards the net that might've deflected off someone past a surprised Roloson. As legendary Jiggs McDonald stated on MSG-Plus, "Just like that, we're tied." Umberger's ninth marker in the last 20 came from Nash and Tyutin, tying it 1-1 with 10:13 remaining.
Each club had power play opportunities to surge ahead but couldn't cash it in, including a late Islander one with 1:42 left after Freddy Modin foolishly tossed the puck into the stands. How Team Sweden chose him over an irked Mikael Samuelsson is beyond us. Even if he did score the lone goal Monday, he's not better than Sammy, who ripped his own country that also stuck Peter Forsberg on when he hasn't played in a big game in forever.
The game went to OT where the BJ's killed the remainder. In it, the Islanders got some good chances, forcing Mason to make five saves. That excluded a couple of posts including one from Tavares and another off the stick of Bailey late. It would go to the skill competition. Both goalies were strong with Mason and Roloson denying the first four shooters. That's when Schremp stepped out and put on a great stickhandling display before beating Mason, who never had a chance. Roloson then denied Tyutin, who actually was 2-for-5 entering, to seal the win in front of hockey legend Gordie Howe, who was in the building a night after watching the Devils defeat Atlanta at The Rock. Perhaps he also was on hand for the new Danbury Whalers earlier yesterday.
In any event, he saw an Islander win. Will he also be at The Garden later tonight for Flyers/Rangers? Or are we not worthy?
BONY 3 Stars:
3rd Star-Rob Schremp, NYI (SO winner, 2 hits, 3 takeaways, 9-3 draws in 19 shifts-16:26)
2nd Star-Dwayne Roloson, NYI (41 saves incl.28/28 thru 40, 3/3 in shootout)
1st Star-Josh Bailey, NYI (goal, 3 SOG, 2-2 draws, +1 in 15:39)