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A blog by a long time New York Islanders fan who stays true to the fellas wearing orange, white and blue…but thinks the Islanders organization has some shaping up to do.

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Sunday, December 28, 2008

Eyes Left Prize, But One Point's the Consolation

Islanders 3: Sabres 4 (SO)

In Buffalo, where the snow piles high and the hockey is fierce, the Sabres haven't been exactly consistent lately, and it almost showed last night. But they were able to cling to the two points, besting the Islanders in a shootout after receiving the scare of their season.

New York took the first three shots on goal and then had the first power play, which started out tight but slowly faded in the last minute after a couple of great saves by Ryan Miller. Throughout the period, they had some spurts of offense but nothing really flowed. Buffalo, meanwhile, got things cooking on the power play as Ales Kotalik passed to Maxim Afinigenov down low, who in turn hit Jochen Hecht in front for Hecht's fourth of the year.

The Islanders tied it up in the second with help from an unlikely source: Jeff Tambellini, the struggling young left wing who finally found the break in the clouds. Josh Bailey passed to Tambellini in the corner, who passed cross-ice to Mark Streit and then darted to the net to collect Streit's pass on a practically empty net, with Miller out of position. It was a well-deserved break for Tamby, who has improved his play steadily over the past few games. Jason Pominville put the Sabres up once more, though, on the PP at 13:09 of the second (Sean Bergenheim the guilty party).

All night, the Isles kept up great work along the boards and were able to get some good chances, but no finish. Brendan Witt had an improved game, helping out on offense as well as providing solid defense. Also, Kyle Okposo had a great game, skating hard and getting to the net often- the only thing I'd love for him to do is not miss the net, but as a young player with plenty of learning to do, his accuracy will improve over time. He, Mike Comrie and Blake Comeau seem to be jelling very well on a line together.

In the third period, Clarke MacArthur showed how perseverance pays off; he absorbed a big hit from Comrie, got right back up, and joined the play a few seconds later, ripping a shot from the point that beat MacDonald and made the score 3-1. Buffalo was rolling with the lead, although the Islanders led them 10-2 in shots at one point in the third. As a fan, you started to lose hope seeing the play yo-yo back and forth and the Islanders unable to capitalize on anything they threw at Miller (who had a solid game).

The momentum would change late in the game, however, as the Isles made great use of what little time was left on the clock. MacArthur took a tripping penalty late that turned into a golden opportunity for Comrie. With the extra attacker (Joey MacDonald having been pulled with a full three minutes remaining), Blake Comeau passed to Bill Guerin on the right, and then Guerin found Comrie in front, who put in his third goal of the season to make it 3-2. And then, a crazy last minute of the game in which Joey was pulled yet again saw Okposo use both his passing and his physical presence to protect the puck, and found Campoli in the slot, who wristed the puck right over Miller's shoulder and into the net with two seconds left, to Okposo's sheer joy, and that of the rest of the Islanders as well (especially Blake Comeau and Richard Park, who I saw jumping up and down like little boys on Christmas morning). Campoli has showed quite a bit of last-minute heroics this season, and despite his frustration early on, he showed good patience and placement with his shot even with only a couple of seconds left.

His goal sent the game into a frenzied overtime, in which Witt and MacDonald were the two stars; Witt had two huge blocks on the odd-man rush, and MacDonald a few great saves, as the Sabres were on the power play for the last two minutes of OT (once again, Sean Bergenheim in the bin- something is just not right with this kid at the moment). Then came the shootout, and a lesson in actually shooting the puck. Joey Mac was beaten by both Kotalik and Drew Stafford, and neither Richard Park nor Okposo got past Ryan Miller. The explanation here is easy- when you beat a goalie three times up high, wouldn't you think to go up high in the shootout, especially when he once again gives you half the net to shoot at? Not so for the Isles; both Park and Okposo elected to go low on Miller, who made two easy saves. So it goes, and so went the extra point, but nonetheless, the Isles show life now, and as they go into MSG Monday night against a floundering Rangers squad, let's hope they show that persistence once more.

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