Backup goaltender and Calgary native Nathan Lawson was spectacular in relief, John Tavares and Matt Moulson scored two goals apiece and the Islanders topped the Flames 5-2 for their sixth win in seven games, but Monday night's win did not come without any cost for the Islanders.
Two days after the Islanders dealt veteran netminder Dwayne Roloson to Tampa Bay, goaltender Rick DiPietro went down in the second period with a groin strain.
DiPietro's injury doesn't seem to be serious--"It was a little tweak and I'll be back as soon as possible," he said after the game-but the worrisome moment revealed a larger issue of concern.
With his team riding high on a five-of-six game winning streak includingbig wins over Pittsburgh and Detroit, general manager Garth Snow took a big risk shipping Roloson out of town, especially given DiPietro’s checkered injury history.
And while DiPietro’s injury will likely prove to be minor—the Islanders said he left the game for precautionary reasons and DiPietro said it was a mere tweak—that risk was exposed, regardless.
Powered by a pair of goals from both John Tavares and Matt Moulson, the Islanders were feasting upon the Flames for a cushy 4-1 lead, but less than six minutes into the second period, the Islanders suffered a severe blow when DiPietro left the game 5:40 into the second.
With the Flames down by 3 goals and desperate, DiPietro faced a flurry of shots. After turning aside two straight attempts by Jarome Iginla, DiPietro appeared to over-extend himself and was slow to get up, prompting head trainer Garrett Timms to rush onto the ice.
"I don't think a man's body is supposed to bend in those sort of ways, "DiPietro joked after the game.
DiPietro, who recently returned from a short stint on injured reserve for swelling in his surgically-repaired left knee, appeared for a moment like he would remain in the game, but after a second consult from Timms, he skated towards the Islanders bench.
"Sometimes as a player, you have to be saved from yourself," DiPietro said.
Calgary native Nathan Lawson, recalled from Bridgeport Sunday morning after the Islanders traded Roloson, entered the game at 5:40 and was impressive in only his 2nd NHL start.
"It was awesome," said Lawson, who had many friend and family in attendance. "That's all I can say."
Given DiPietro’s extensive injury history, Lawson was asked before the game if he felt comfortable handling the bulk of the workload should something happen to DiPietro.
That proved prescient last night, when Lawson was forced into the game cold in wake of DiPietro’s injury.
“I have to be confident I can do that,” said Lawson, who is slated to back up DiPietro tonight. “I really, really hope it doesn’t come down to that. I hope he has the best of luck and hope that he can finish the season strong and prove to everyone he’s healthy and able to be a top goalie in this league.”
Snow’s trade of Roloson—one of the team’s most consistent players amidst a very volatile season-- aroused suspicion that he was already looking ahead to next year. The Islanders entered last night’s game in 14th place in the Eastern conference, 17 points removed from the 8th spot.
But Snow insisted he was confident in Lawson and that assuaged any reservations he had about pulling the trigger to acquire Lightning defensive prospect Ty Wishart.
Lawson made Snow look good on that assumption, turning away 28 of 29 shots once DiPietro left the game, despite coming in cold and under tough circumstances.
"it was real unfortunate I had to go in like that, especially to a good friend of mine, but I was just trying to hold the fort and get us a win. That's all that mattered," Lawson said.
If DiPietro’s injury develops into something serious. the Islanders do have an attraction option, however.
Although it is believed that Snow had no intention of claiming Flyers goalie Michael Leighton, placed on waivers Monday, that stance may have changed quickly once DiPietro left the game.
Leighton, who helped lead Philadelphia to their Stanley Cup run last season, is signed through 2012 at $1.55 million per year.
After the game, Islanders head coach Jack Capuano said they will likely call up an emergency back-up goaltender as a precaution because of the length of the trip.
When asked if he thought he would play again on the Islanders current road trip, DiPietro responded:
"It's how I feel when I wake up, and what the trainers say. Then we'll go from there.,"