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NHL Game Recap: Isles Fall to Caps 3-2, But Sellout Crowd Sends Strong Message

UNIONDALE, NY - FEBRUARY 26: Travis Hamonic #36 of the New York Islanders hits the ice after being hit by a puck in the first period against the Washington Capitals at the Nassau Coliseum on February 26, 2011 in Uniondale, New York.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
Daniel FriedmanCorrespondent IFebruary 27, 2011

If there's one thing the New York Islanders can take pride in after tonight's game, it's the fact that they played in front of a sellout crowd for the first time this season.

Should the team's recent surge roll over to next year, the fans will come to Nassau Coliseum on a regular basis.

Before we get to the actual game, it is important to note just how significant tonight's attendance figures are for the New York Islanders, the fans and the league.

There have been countless stories in the press, especially by our neighbors north of the border, that speak of the so-called plight of the Islanders—how the fan base is non-existent, and that Long Island therefore does not deserve a team.

Tonight, all 16,250 of us would like to let the entire hockey world know one thing: We are all Islanders, we love this team to death and we are going to do whatever we can to make sure the NHL understands that we are here and refuse to be ignored.

For most fans who attended tonight's contest, it must have been awe-inspiring to walk through the gate and see virtually every seat in the arena filled. I know I felt a chill when I got to my seat.

To be part of a large, pumped-up crowd like that is something I think we all could get used to. It just goes to show that the true recipe for an attendance boost is simply winning and excitement.

New York has vastly improved the way they play the game, and the fans are raising the stakes.

I can't remember the last time I was upset that the Islanders didn't beat the Washington Capitals, knowing the Isles were good enough to win.

For a period and a half tonight, the Isles completely outplayed the Caps, ending the first frame ahead 1-0, thanks to a goal by Kyle Okposo, and then extending that lead to 2-0 just 33 seconds into the second period, after Travis Hamonic took a shot from the point that found its way through traffic and into the back of the net.

The Islanders out-shot Washington by a wide margin through the first 30 minutes of this game, and after Zenon Konopka literally dropped Capitals enforcer Matt Hendricks in a fight, there was a sense of victory permeating around the old barn on Hempstead Turnpike.

But as quickly as that feeling of joy swept across the stands, it faded, as the Caps scored three unanswered goals in the second half of the contest, ending the game with a 3-2 win.

The Isles literally gave this one away. They had the lead, and they had been firing on all cylinders, only to come out flat for the remainder of regulation time.

Al Montoya had a solid game in net for New York, making 19 saves, including some nice ones. His best stop of the night came when Alex Ovechkin came rushing in alone, only to watch the Isles netminder stack the pads.

New York needs to give a full effort for 60 minutes, especially if they have playoff aspirations next season. This team is absolutely good enough to win, and they certainly had their fair share of scoring chances tonight.

As I said in the preview, the difference between an Isles win and a loss tonight will be their willingness and compete level, not their ability.

They simply did not give everything they had tonight.

 

On a side note, the Islanders waived forward Rob Schremp and goaltender Nathan Lawson earlier in the day. Both were in the lineup despite being waived.

 

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