During a break in the Islanders morning skate yesterday, tough guy Zenon Konopka stood up and called out a television reporter in the stands of Nassau Coliseum.
“Stop calling us a doormat!” Konopka yelled, referencing the station’s derisive words about the Islanders in their Wednesday morning broadcast. “We’re not a doormat anymore.”
Just hours after Konopka took exception to the name-calling, however, the Islanders did little to combat that notion in the first two periods.
The struggling Senators kicked off the dirt, wiped their shoes and walked all over the Islanders the first 40 minutes. And although they rallied with two goals in the third, it wasn’t enough as the Senators earned a 6-4 win to break their six-game winless streak.
“Obviously the effort,” coach Jack Capuano said when asked about the night’s biggest disappointment. “We switched goalies and they didn’t get any help tonight. We took two periods off.”
After yanking Kevin Poulin midway through the first period, the 20-year-old rookie returned in the third after backup Nathan Lawson gave up four goals in the middle frame.
Despite a quick hook to Poulin after the 20-year-old rookie surrendered two goals in the first 9:50 of play the Islanders escaped the first period with a manageable 2-1 deficit.
They didn’t fare much better with Nathan Lawson in goal. The 27-year-old netminder, who was called up from Bridgeport when veteran Dwayne Roloson was traded to Tampa Bay earlier this month, gave up four goals in the second.
“It was a letdown,” said Blake Comeau of the team’s performance.
On the second of two disheveled power–plays for the Islanders, Milan Michalek tallied a shorthanded goal on an odd-man rush. Then, 20 seconds after Comeau scored to pull the Islanders back within a goal, Chris Kelley stick-handled past John Tavares to rip a shot for a 4-2 lead at 10:51.
Ottawa piled on with two more goals before the period was over, the first of which was a real dagger.
After his first shot attempt bounced back to him, Nick Foligno tried again, this time connecting with defenseman Andrew MacDonald’s stick at the front of the net at 13:01. MacDonald took a couple of chops with his stick to prevent the puck from sputtering in, but to no avail. Zack Smith’s wrister at 14:27 gave Ottawa a 6-3 lead heading into the final period.
Defenseman Milan Jurcina scored a goal and added an assist on P.A. Parenteau’s deflection as the Islanders rallied with two goals in the third, but the deficit was too much to surmount.
“We can’t get in a hole early,” Jurcina said. “It’s too hard to get ourselves out.”
“You can’t take a shift off in this league,” said enforcer Trevor Gillies, who scored his first NHL goal in the first period last night. “Teams are too good.”
After denying all 11 shots in the third, Poulin said he took no issue with Capuano’s decision to pull him in the first.
“I wasn’t angry [with Capuano],” Poulin said. “I was just mad at myself.”
In retrospect, Capuano said he did not regret the decision.
“I would’ve. Just a gut feeling. You can look back at whether it was the right move or wrong move but coaches have to go with their gut feeling and I thought it was at the time.”