One week the Islanders receive phenomenal performances from Rick DiPietro and Dwayne Roloson to top the best two teams in the league, and the next they are relying on relative unknowns in goal.
To their credit, both Nathan Lawson and Kevin Poulin delivered outstanding performances in relief the past two games, although the latter wasn’t rewarded for his last night when the Islanders fell 2-1 to Edmonton at Rexall Place.
Replacing Lawson after he gave up two goals within the first 5:17 of play Poulin made his NHL debut last night and turned aside all 19 shots he faced from Edmonton. But it wasn’t enough to dig the Islanders out of an early 2-goal hole.
Both Lawson and Poulin were splitting time with Finnish prospect Mikko Koskinen in Bridgeport when the Islanders rattled off back-to-back wins against Pittsburgh and Detroit last week.
The two call-ups were summoned recently in wake of two hits to the team’s goaltending depth. Lawson was recalled when Roloson was shipped to Tampa Bay in a trade Saturday and 20-year-old Poulin joined the team in Calgary after DiPietro suffered a groin strain during the team’s 5-2 win over Calgary Monday.
After a stellar outing to relieve DiPietro and preserve the Islanders win Monday, Lawson gave up a goal at 3:22 when Gilbert Brule banged a rebound between his pads for a 1-0 Oilers lead.
Less than two minutes later, Dustin Penner blew past defensemen Milan Jurcina and Jack Hillen and went backhand to beat Lawson for a shorthanded goal.
Isles coach Jack Capuano promptly yanked Lawson and sent Poulin--regarded as the Islanders top goaltending prospect--in for his first career appearance.
“I just didn’t think he was very sharp,” Capuano said.
"That's a coach's decision," Lawson said. "You always want to be in there, but if that's what it takes to spark the team then that's what a team guy will do."
Poulin, 10-4-0 for Bridgeport this season turned away all 19 shots he faced and the Islanders cut the Oilers’ lead in half with Blake Comeau’s 9th of the season at 13:00.
“Those were obviously tough circumstances, but he’s one heck of a goalie and he held us in the game and that’s all you can ask,” said Josh Bailey, who picked up an assist on Comeau's second-period marker.
“After this game, I know I can play in the NHL,” Poulin said. “We’ll see if I get another start but right now it’s just a dream come true.”
After four straight power-play goals over the past two games the Islanders went 0-for-7 with the man-advantage last night, including a key 5-on-3 that was wasted late in the third period.
The Islanders were also hurt by the absence of veteran defenseman Mark Eaton and their best defensive forward Frans Nielsen.
“That definitely hurt us, but it’s no excuse,” Capuano said.
Less than two hours before Lawson made his 2nd NHL start, the Islanders pronounced Eaton out indefinitely and said he’ll require surgery on his right hip.
Eaton, 33, is only the latest loss to an Islanders blue line that has been decimated by injury. The unit has suffered particularly costly injuries to key veterans such as Mark Streit (shoulder), Mike Mottau (hip) and Radek Martinek (wrist). The team also recently traded James Wisniewski to Montreal.