Sunday, March 14, 2010

Special teams the difference in Isles' win over Devs

It was a simple formula for Scott Gordon's club Saturday against their old Patrick nemesis. Special teams were the difference in a well earned 4-2 home victory over the Devils off the Meadowbrook. 

Second period power play goals a minute apart from Jon Sim and Mark Streit along with a momentum turning Sean Bergenheim shorthanded goal midway through the third was enough for the Islanders to snap a four-game winless streak. They victimized former teammate Yann Danis, who made a rare start for Martin Brodeur, who Jacques Lemaire rested in New Jersey's third game in four days. 

We wanted to get lots of shots and traffic in front of him,” Streit indicated. “He probably didn’t have a lot of confidence tonight. We wanted to take advantage of that. Marty is a huge goalie, a very good goalie. He plays the puck unbelievable. It’s a big difference if he is in net.
A solid strategy but early on, it was the resurgent Devils who entered off back-to-back home wins over the Rangers and Pens, that carried the play. For a third consecutive game, the guys from Newark struck first when a seeing eye Mike Mottau shot snuck past Dwayne Roloson at 2:52. Rod Pelley and Dean McAmmond netted assists. 
New Jersey continued to carry play, outshooting the Isles 7-1 over the first 13 minutes. When Roloson, who'd never beaten the Devils before- made a routine stop, the restless Long Islanders gave him the business. However, the 40 year-old veteran who's provided solid goaltending for the club bounced back, finishing with  a game high 38 saves including 20 of 21 in a hectic third to finally earn a 'W' versus the Devs. 
With about five minutes left in the first, the hosts finally got untracked- bunching most of their 11 shots on Danis, who finally succumbed to the pressure when Freddy Meyer banged home a Tim Jackman rebound to knot it with 2:37 remaining. Josh Bailey picked up a secondary helper. Meyer's third really gave his team a lift. They continued to dictate, using an effective forecheck that led to two more goals in a second that saw them outshoot the Devs 10-7. First, Sim struck off the rush when he took a Richard Park pass and wristed one through traffic past Danis. After an unnecessary Ilya Kovalchuk slash, Streit made him pay when his left point shot off a faceoff win caromed off Mottau's skate and in. Frans Nielsen got the lone helper. 
Just like that, the Devils trailed by two. David Clarkson tried to provide a spark with a very active shift that featured a big hit. But the lull that started late in the first proved costly. 
"None," a frustrated Patrik Elias said of what went wrong. “We were ready to play. We played fine the first 15 or 17 minutes. Then we just had a couple of bad shifts in a row.

They showed at least for the third, peppering Roloson with 21 shots but only solved him once thanks to Kovalchuk's fifth in red and black. The electrifying Russian took full advantage of a poor Isles' line change when he took a Dean McAmmond backhand saucer pass and blasted a one-timer from the right circle far side on Rollie, cutting the deficit to 3-2 with still 18:19 to play. The Islanders certainly gave them a great opportunity to turn it around, handing Lemaire's club a two-man advantage for nearly a minute. But the Devs' power play continued to be a sore spot. 

"We’ve got to work on it. Definitely,Lemaire assessed.We have to be better.

Roloson also made some strong stops from in tight, including a pair on Elias. Eventually, another Devil PP proved pivotal but for the wrong reason. With Lemaire opting to go with five forwards down a goal, he got burned literally when Blake Comeau forced McAmmond into a turnover and then blew by Kovalchuk, creating a two-on-one which resulted in Bergenheim's shorty. On the play, his initial shot was stopped by Danis but the rebound popped out going off Bergy's stick and in before the moorings came off. That was the crusher.

They are in the middle of the playoff race. They’re up there and they want to finish first,” Streit added. “It’s a big win for us.

One which prevented the Devils from moving back into a first place tie with the Pens, who visit Tampa Bay later today. The two clubs meet one final time at The Rock Wednesday. The Devs' next face Boston tomorrow before getting the chance to sweep the season series against Sid The Kid and Geno.

BONY 3 Stars:

3rd Star-Dean McAmmond, NJD (2 assists, +1 in 13:58)
2nd Star-Sean Bergenheim, NYI (2nd SHG of season-7th career, +2 in 18:15)
1st Star-Dwayne Roloson, NYI (38 saves incl.20/21 in 3rd for 1st career win vs Devils)

Weight Done For Season: Islander captain Doug Weight's season is done. The crafty 39 year-old American playmaking pivot opted for season-ending left shoulder surgery for a torn labrum/rotator cuff which certainly slowed him down. In 36 games this season, he had a goal and 16 assists.

"It's not the type of hockey I wanted to play," the prideful first-year captain said. "I couldn't finish a check, I couldn't take a check, I couldn't handle the puck, I couldn't shoot the puck with velocity I was used to. I was spending 80 per cent of my shift positioning myself so I didn't blow my shoulder out."

The former Rangers' 1990 second round pick has had a superb 18-year career playing for half a dozen teams (NYR, Edm, Stl, Car, Ana, NYI). Among the highlights have been representing Team USA at the Olympics along with helping the Hurricanes win a Stanley Cup in 2005-06 after being acquired from the Blues. Last season, he went over 1,000 career points. In 1,220 career games, Weight's amassed 276 goals and 748 assists for a respectable 1,024. If it's the end, he certainly doesn't sound like it.

"I'm going to approach it with the aspirations of still playing hockey," he added. "I've still got the fire in my stomach when I hit the ice. My legs still feel strong, I feel strong on the puck. The rest will be written in the summer. I'll approach it to come back with 100 per cent aggression.

"I'm going to attack this like I'm 25 and have to get ready for camp. But if Thursday was my last game, I have no regrets."

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