ATLANTA - The Islanders and Yann Danis took a 4-0 lead into the third period last night at Philips Arena, but when Thrashers rookie defenseman Zach Bogosian scored 26 seconds into the period on a shot off the crossbar, it triggered the kind of meltdown that harked back to earlier in the season. In short order, a power-play goal by Atlanta's Rich Peverley and a wraparound by Marty Reasoner at 8:36 of the third cut the Isles' lead to one.
It was a tense situation, especially for Danis, who lost a 4-1 lead to Montreal on Nov. 1. Not only that, but the Islanders had spent so much time killing penalties that they didn't even have a shot on goal to that point in the period.
Who do they turn to? Surprise, surprise. It was the Kid Line of Blake Comeau and rookies Josh Bailey and Kyle Okposo, playing together for the first time this season, who made a play when it was desperately needed. It ended with Bailey feeding Okposo for his second goal at 12:39, and that turned out to be the winner in a 5-4 decision that wasn't secure until time expired.
With Thrashers goaltender Johan Hedberg pulled for the extra skater, Ilya Kovalchuk scored on a deflection at 19:02 to make it 5-4. Somehow, the Islanders and Danis, who made 33 saves, hung on despite being outshot 15-2 in the third period.
The Islanders ended a 14-game road winless streak (0-13-1) with their first win away from home since Nov. 24 in Montreal and recorded their second straight win overall, a feat they last managed in that same game against the Canadiens. Isles coach Scott Gordon reflected the tense ending to the game when he didn't wait to hear all of a reporter's question before launching into a rant.
Reminded that he'd seen the Isles lose leads previously, Gordon said, "I'm not going to talk about that, so you can ask me about it but I'm not going to talk about it. You know what? We got five points in three games. That's what we'll talk about."
Two more attempts to continue the question were cut off by Gordon, who raised his voice to the boiling point, saying, "I'm not talking about it. I'll say it again. I'm not talking about any collapses. We haven't had a collapse in the third period . . . "
When he calmed down long enough to hear the rest of the question about the kids coming through in such a tense situation, Gordon said, "They played great. Awesome. I'm happy with them. That's all you've got to talk about.
"It's a great play. They made a great play, and that's why I put them together. I want to give them the opportunity to show what they can do together."
The major story line coming into the game was Gordon's decision to group Comeau, Bailey and Okposo on one line while putting veterans Mike Comrie, Doug Weight and Bill Guerin on another line. In the first period, young or old, first line or fourth line wasn't a factor. All four lines scored in the first 13:17 to drive Atlanta starter Kari Lehtonen from the net.
It started 55 seconds into the game when Trent Hunter ended an 18-game streak without a goal. Then, Bailey scooped up a giveaway by Kovalchuk and fed Okposo in front for a goal. Tim Jackman got to a loose puck in the crease to score, and finally, Weight stuffed a goal past Lehtonen at the left post to knock him out of the game.
But it was the kids who delivered in the clutch, although Okposo gave the Weight and Guerin an assist for calming everyone down on the bench after the score got to 4-3. At that point, Comeau chipped the puck down the left side, retrieved it and delivered a cross-ice pass that Bailey had trouble settling. But when he got the handle, he dished perfectly to Okposo.
"It was great for our line," Okposo said. "Blake made a nice play pulling up. He started the whole thing. Bails made a great pass, and my job was easy. He knew where I was the whole time. He's really a playmaker."