Monday, November 22, 2010

Byfuglien makes it unlucky 13 for Islanders

They played better but it still wasn't enough. Dustin Byfuglien's big blast at 1:30 of overtime proved the difference in the Thrashers' 2-1 win, extending the Islander losing streak to an unlucky 13. At least they earned a point. Only the second time during their worst stretch of hockey since a 14-game winless slide 20 years ago (2/13-3/15, 1990).

We had several chances to win, club leader Matt Moulson said after calling out some teammates during Saturday's 4-1 home loss. “We have to score goals. … You can’t take comfort in getting just one point.

The team's offensive woes have seen them score just 12 times over the last 11 games. On a night Rick DiPietro returned to the net for the first time in 18 days and was surprisingly sharp, only Michael Grabner lit the lamp late in the second, deflecting home a Frans Nielsen shot for a 1-0 lead with a period left. But they couldn't hold it with one-time Ranger Nik Antropov blasting one past DiPietro on the power play 2:25 into the third.

DiPietro, who finished with 33 saves for his most in two years, came up large with under seven minutes left in regulation when he stoned Jim Slater on a breakaway, flexing his right pad to keep it tied. Unfortunately, a breakdown during OT allowed Byfuglien to get loose in the slot and bury the winner. On the play, John Tavares fell down at the blueline which gave Big Buff plenty of room to use his wheels to skate in and step into a perfect laser high blocker that sent Atlanta fans home happy.

I’m not sure what happened,” DiPietro said. “He made a nice shot. ... It’s unacceptable for us. We need to win games. There are no excuses. … It’s frustrating, because we know what we’re capable of doing.

He [DiPietro] was our best player,” praised interim coach Jack Capuano who slipped to 0-3 since relieving Scott Gordon. “He was outstanding. He was what I thought he was going to be.

The Islanders have been outscored a preposterous 48-18 during the futile stretch which interrupted a 4-1-2 start. Under Capuano, the offensive woes have continued with the team only able to muster four goals while giving up 10. At some point, it has to stop. Their effort was much better yesterday. Unfortunately, they ran into a hot goalie in Ondrej Pavelec who's allowed just three in three straight starts. His best save was a highlight reel one on P.A. Parenteau with under five minutes to go in the third. The Isles were on a power play and a Mark Eaton shot rebounded right to Parenteau, who quickly fired for what looked like a sure goal only to see a sprawling Pavelec somehow reach with his glove to snatch it away. The former Ranger could only look skyward in disbelief. The Atlanta goalie made 28 saves in posting a second consecutive win.

DP expressed even more to MSG's Rob Carlin via Twitter on how difficult it's been on the team:

This eats at us. This is keeping guys up at night and making us sick to our stomachs."

The Islanders also lost vet defenseman Mike Mottau to an eye injury. The ex-Devil was struck by a puck in the right eye and taken off on a stretcher to an Atlanta hospital where he remained before returning home this afternoon. Hopefully, he'll be alright.

"First off, you pray that (Mottau) is alright and that it's nothing career-threatening or anything like that," concerned teammate Mark Eaton told Newsday. "Hopefully we'll get some idea pretty soon that he's alright."

If he does miss time as expected, he'd become the fifth Islander regular on the blueline to sit out joining top D Mark Streit, Milan Jurcina, Jack Hillen and Andrew MacDonald. It's hard to compete when you are injury-plagued. This happened last year too. Makes ya wonder if there's a curse.

In the mean time, the Islanders get two days off before hosting the improved Blue Jackets on Thanksgiving Eve followed by the equally struggling Devils on Black Friday for an early 1 PM start. Hopefully, they'll finally score enough to get the monkey off their back.

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