There are games over the course of the season that are measuring-stick games, and this was one of them for a number of reasons. First and foremost, the Senators are one of the best -- if not THE best - teams in the NHL, and they have absolutely owned the Islanders, winning the last eight games between the clubs.
Not this time. Thanks to tremendous goaltending by Rick DiPietro and terrific efforts from players like Mike Sillinger, Richard Park, Josef Vasicek and Bill Guerin, the Islanders overcame two fluky goals by Andres Meszaros of all people and came away with a 3-2 shootout victory Wednesday night at the Coliseum, before another disappointing crowd of just over 9,200.
Maybe the Isles' dismal recent history against the recently-cold Senators kept fans from coming to the barn, but past performance is no guarantee of future earnings. The Islanders came to play in a hard-hitting, tightly-played game that featured yet another standout performance by DiPietro, who's certainly playing up to his contract now, isn't he? D.P. made 35 stops in the first 65 minutes, includes a few of the WOW variety, and then came up huge in the shootout. He made the final stop on Dean McAmmond look easy, moments after Sillinger beat Ray Emery for what proved to be the game-winner. Guerin scored the first shootout goal for the Isles on their third shot, after Ottawa had put one in off the stick of Daniel Alfredsson.
The Isles continue to live dangerously. This was the 11th game in the last 12 decided by one goal, and the ninth straight game where the Islanders scored two or fewer goals (shootouts notwithstanding). When the margin for error is that thin, you're going to get burned by goals like Meszaros' second, which deflected off Park. But give the Isles credit for not letting the second point get away from them, as happened the game prior against Dallas. Fun fact - the Isles are now 11-1 against Eastern Conference teams who made the playoffs last season.
We'll see how much the Isles have left in the tank when they play the Rangers at the Garden Thursday night. One player who won't enjoy that game is Sean Avery, who's injured -- again, what a fragile flower he is -- having just had wrist surgery. Get well soon, big guy. We'll miss you. And say hi to Mary-Kate (or is it Ashley?) - we always get them confused.