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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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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Much Effort, Not Enough Finish

Islanders 1: Penguins 3

The Islanders had some life in them. They had jump, and feistiness, and net presence. They had everything we've been asking of them since the 7-game losing streak had begun.

They were missing the key component- the ability to put the puck into the back of the net.

Ultimately, it was a lack of finish combined with some harmful mistakes that got Chris Kunitz two goals, Evgeni Malkin a goal and an assist, and the Penguins another win over the Isles, 3-1, at Mellon Arena last night. It was New York's seventh consecutive loss at the Igloo, and one in which perhaps the result looked a bit worse than it should.

The first period was a good showing- tightly-played and with plenty of bad blood. Matt Martin figured pretty heavily into that; as Mike Rupp tried to go at it with Andy Sutton (retribution for Sutton's hit on Pascal Dupuis last time these teams met up) Martin hovered near them and started yapping at Rupp, as if to let him know that he wasn't about to let him beat down on his teammate. Then a few minutes later, he got into it with Tyler Kennedy and proved to be a good match. That kind of toughness is refreshing to see, after games in which the Isles were just flat-out smacked around on the ice.

After a scoreless first in which John Tavares and Doug Weight each had chances- and hit either posts or the side of the net- the Isles failed to make good on a 5-on-3 power play opportunity, and then Kunitz scored his first of the night. The offense failed to get back into the defensive zone in time, leaving plenty of space for Kunitz to tuck the puck in past Dwayne Roloson's right pad. Shortly afterward, Sidney Crosby and Bill Guerin had a 2-on-1 chance which somewhat handcuffed Guerin. Still the puck fluttered to the net and an alert Roloson made a great save. Roloson also took part in some of the feistiness, roughing it up with Rupp a bit after Rupp whacked at him. The resulting 4-on-4 play led to a Malkin goal off the faceoff- a blast from the point that also beat Roloson down low. That somewhat killed the Isles' momentum, and though they still worked hard, frustration mounted (especially for Tavares) as nothing got through.

In fact, it took until 9:38 of the final period for someone to get past Marc-Andre Fleury, who had made some good saves but hadn't had to really be stellar. Frans Nielsen won the faceoff cleanly and went right to the net, where Gervais made a nice pass to him. Nielsen got the puck just around the left pad of a sprawled-out Fleury to cut the lead in half. It still looked manageable for the Islanders... until Mark Streit drifted too close to Blake Comeau, who was carrying the puck into the offensive zone, and Comeau lost the puck. Bill Guerin picked it up and swiftly headed the other way, passing to Kunitz, who put it right past Roloson for his second of the night and eighth of the season. 3-1 Penguins, 14:48 of the third, and the Isles couldn't rebound.

While captain Crosby was point-less in this game, it barely mattered- Malkin and Kunitz were more than capable of picking up the slack, and Fleury made all the saves he had to in order to preserve the win. Malkin now has points in his last 11 games, and as a team the Pens have gotten eight straight wins on Igloo ice. As they keep going, the Isles have a couple of days to figure things out until their game against the Lightning at home. I don't know if I'll be able to watch that one; I'm currently in the middle of getting my computer and my notes together, packing it all in and heading to Buffalo. Sabres country, I know, but where else to talk about hockey in the great state of New York? They're crazy about it up there- about as in love with it as I am- and while I'll miss watching my boys in HD on MSG Plus, well... you gotta do what you gotta do. I'll keep up with them though. :)

Notes: The Isles only had one true penalty in the whole game? Niiiice... Fleury is 5-0-1 in his last six against the Isles... Tavares is still looking for his first goal in a while. He's goal-less in 12.

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