What may be the defining moment of the Islanders season occurred with 8:25 remaining in the third period Saturday night.
Atlanta Thrashers center Bryan Little snapped a one-time wrist shot directly off an offensive zone faceoff past a baffled Rick DiPietro. The Isles' overpriced netminder stood and stared, attempting to comprehend what had just happened, while Little and his teammates celebrated.
The goal was the defining moment in the Islanders’ 5-4 loss to Atlanta at the Nassau Coliseum. After the game, DiPietro attempted to explain what happened while Little criticized the Islanders goaltender’s awareness to detail—or lack thereof.
“I had my head down, getting set,” DiPietro said. “When I lifted my head, the puck was in the net.”
Little took advantage.
“I tried to make it seem like I was going to win it back. I was trying to put it on net, to get a shot, and ended up getting a good bounce on it,” Little told to reporters. “I've tried it before, but you need to have a bit of luck to get it through. I kind of caught them off-guard, and their goalie really wasn't paying attention.”
The Islanders response to the loss was to be decimated in Nashville, 5-0, Monday night. Yeah, it has been a tough season in Uniondale. And it should get worse tonight against Anaheim at the Coliseum.
The Islanders enter tonight’s match having lost 20 of 21 with their lone win a 2-0 whitewash of the dreadful Devils on Black Friday. The Islanders have been outscored by an aggregate 79-36 during the slide.
As one might suspect, the Islanders are perturbed at how their season has progressed. The on-ice manifestation of their annoyance was John Tavares’s first NHL fight. The 2009 No. 1 overall draft pick fought Atlanta rookie Alexander Burmistrov with five minutes remaining in the loss.
Tavares and his teammates are mostly relegated to finding silver linings when answering questions.
“It's deeply frustrating. We played really hard. “We've got to make sure we're prepared and make sure we keep battling,” Travis Hamonic said after Saturday night’s loss. “Good thing is we never quit,” Rob Schremp seconded.“We worked so hard and we kept coming,” noted Matt Moulson.
Stipulated. But there is enough hard evidence to argue the Islanders' work ethic is not enough to overcome a lack of NHL-caliber talent. At 5-18-5, the Islanders will most likely miss the playoffs for the fourth year in a row but the possibility of adding legitimate NHL talent to the Islanders young corps with 54 games remaining this year could be a foundation for a successful future.
Seems obvious. But don’t expect general manager Garth Snow to traverse that route.
“We’re obviously in a rebuilding mode here. We’re in a situation where we rely heavily on some young players. The one thing I’m proud of, since I became general manager, is our prospect pool has been replenished. Whether it is Nino Niederreiter playing for Portland of the WHL (or) Calvin de Haan, who could be the captain of the Canadian World Junior team (or) Matt Donovan at Denver (University), we have a situation where we’re going with young players and I’m not going to deviate from the plan to rebuild through the draft. I’m not going to trade the young prospects, whether (they) are in Bridgeport or junior hockey (or) college hockey or Europe for a quick fix,” Snow said Saturday night. “If there’s something that makes sense for us, not just the short term but in the long term, we’ll look at it. There (have) been several occasions where we’ve added players via free agency, trade, through waivers.”