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Saturday, January 3, 2009

Bailey's First, Weight's 1000th Overshadowed by 23rd Loss

Islanders 4: Coyotes 5

It was a flip-flop game to the very end, and one that both Josh Bailey and Doug Weight undoubtedly wished could have turned out differently.

Even so, both the rookie and the veteran had personal accomplishments to smile over.

Bailey scored his first career goal, and Weight his 1000th (and 1001st) points in the Isles' 5-4 loss to Phoenix, one that neither the Coyotes nor the Isles controlled fully for 60 minutes. Defensive breakdowns gave Phoenix the offensive edge they needed over New York, and they mounted a lead early on Rick DiPietro (back in net after missing two straight games). Viktor Tikhonov scored unassisted on the backhand 1:46 in, capitalizing on the Coyotes' aggressive forechecking style. That forecheck kept the Isles away from goaltender Mikael Tellqvist until Sean Bergenheim broke through and scored his second in two games to tie it, looking better than ever since being scratched. (2 goals, 5 shots, +1 in two games back) The same could not be said for defenseman Chris Campoli, who had two minor penalties in the game, one of which neutralized an Isles PP and led to a 4-on-4 goal by Zbynek Michalek, who fired it past DiPietro for the 2-1 lead with ten seconds to go in the period.

In the second period, Shane Doan made the score 3-1, and in the third, former Isle Olli Jokinen made it 4-1, putting the game seemingly out of reach for the Islanders. But they staged a comeback which has become somewhat typical of them as of late, with Bailey scoring his milestone goal just 31 seconds after Jokinen on a one-timer set up by Bill Guerin and Jeff Tambellini. Joakim Lindstrom made the game 5-2 on a breakaway, and then Richard Park scored two quick goals, both of them assisted by Weight, who got point number 1,000 on Park's first. Ever the good teammate, Park immediately grabbed the puck as Weight was mobbed by his teammates and congratulated by the crowd in Jobing.com Arena. Three minutes later, Park had scored again, making it just a one-goal lead that Phoenix would be lucky to hold on to.

At first, you would imagine that the two milestones reached by Bailey and Weight would be the main thing to focus on, and in a way, they are. These two players have earned all of the praise they receive, and they definitely bring something to the table. However, the fact remains that the Islanders could have had this game, and let Phoenix get too far ahead, not to mention too comfortable in the offensive zone. They have the potential to be just as aggressive offensively as the Coyotes were, and on several chances they tried too hard to make the perfect play, and didn't just shoot the puck. Plus, where Phoenix went in front of DP and made life difficult, Tellqvist was able to make many more clear-cut saves. Defensively, there were also some mistakes that led to either chances or goals. When they did get going, it was with too little time left on the clock, and even with a ton of time it would prove too exhausting to come back from a three-goal lead, emotional lift or no.

With that said, the Isles head off to San Jose today to play arguably the best team in the whole league, the Sharks, who are unbeaten at home in regulation. The Isles would do well to get this game to overtime at least to get a point out of this squad. No saying who's in net today; with DiPietro in net and still working back to form, I would expect Joey MacDonald to man the pipes tonight. Game on at 10:30, folks.

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