Tonight is the first night I'm actually sitting in the Blog Box, so on the night of Mike Sillinger's 1,000th career game, I'm changing it up and will provide a running account of the game and what it's like sitting in the Box, which is literally a table just above section 201 that's set so high when you're sitting down that I feel like my five-year-old son sitting at the kitchen table. It's also a lot like a booth at Chili's, which also always seems to have tables at chest height.
Anyway, I chose not to post a bunch of live updates, figuring you're watching the game and not looking at these blogs as the game is going on. If you are and would like live posts from the game, let me know - we aims to please. So with apologies to Bill Simmons, here we go!
6:59 - Standing here in the box, and my colleague B.D. Gallof notes that the crowd looks pretty sparse. He's right - getting into the parking lot at 6:30 p.m. was shockingly easy, and there were no lines at the concession counters a few minutes ago when I bought my "Stallion" combo, which really should be an Italian hero and not roast beef, don't you think? But I'm hungry and not complaining.
Don't count on light attendance Saturday, when Al Arbour will coach the Isles one more time to reach 1,500 games as the head coach. That should be a blast, and we'll see if the Isles wear throwback unis for the game, which would be fitting. So get there early.
Meanwhile, Sillinger is being presented with a jersey with the number 1,000 on the back in honor of his milestone game. It reminds me of the worst jersey I've ever seen, this past season at Shea Stadium. A guy had a Giants jersey that had on the back - from top down: MAYS - 24 - BONDS - 25. Horrible.
By the way, we're apparently allowed to cheer in the Blog Box since we're all fans here (and We're All Islanders, of course). But I can't do it. Too many years in the press box has me conditioned otherwise. That, and I'm trying to eat and type at the same time, standing up, which is a challenge, especially for someone who never learned how to type (the right way, anyway). The Stallion, by the way - not bad. And the cheese steak booth is also right outside this section. Mmmmmmmm, we'll be hitting that later fo shizzle.
Also, a shout out to my pals Frank Pasquale and Tom Loesch, former colleagues of fellow blogger Dee Karl. The hockey world is a small one (and getting smaller if you look at the national TV ratings, but that's another story.) Dee says hi.
7:11 - The guy who sang the national anthem said "perilous night" instead of 'perilous fight." Ouch. Still, he did a much better job than Carl Lewis, and certainly not as bad as Tracy Jordan. (I knew I'd get a 30 Rock reference in somehow. That'll be recording on the DVR within the hour).
7:18 - Jan Hlavac is whistled for the game's first penalty almost four minutes into a so-far lackluster start. Campoli and Bergeron are on the points for the power play. I like that pairing - we'll see how they produce. (This time? Nada.)
7:23 - This is not only my first game in the Box, but the first game in person this season, and you get a better sense of the players when you're here live. You've gotta love the size and skill Ruslan Fedotenko brings to the table. Good start to the season for the Tenk.
7:28 - Great glove save by DiPietro on Hlavac from in close. Love what D.P. brings to the table also.
7:29 - And the Ice Girls, for that matter. Make that the Sports Authority Ice Girls.
7:31 - There is a guy dressed up like a tremendous bottle of Tuscan milk to my right, with Sparky. Not sure why. I wonder if they go clubbing post-game in those costumes. They'd get plenty of free drinks.
7:34 - Another nice stop by DiPietro on Vincent Lecavalier from the door mouth. Eight goals won't be scored tonight.
7:36 - Bill Guerin scores his fifth goal of the season with a hard shot from the top of the right circle, 1-0 Islanders! Guerin beat Marc Denis low to the stick side. I was just about to type that the Isles have had few good chances so far. In fact, that was their only really good chance of the game, with Guerin on a mini-break into the Lightning zone, and he converted. Money player.
7:39 - Turns out that there's a Tuscan milk promotion and everyone in Section 201 got 50 cents off a gallon of milk. Great seats and cheap milk - can't beat that!
7:40 - Another opportunity for the Isles when Miro Satan picks up a loose puck and beats Brad Lukowich at center ice for a break-in. Denis makes the stop and Josef Vasicek just misses putting in the rebound at the right post.
7:42 - Chippiness: Sean Bergenheim boards Lukowich, then the Lightning blueliner flattens Bergenheim with a cross-check. Four-on-four action! (But no goals.)
7:48 - End of one, Isles up 1-0. Win every period - we're a third of the way there.
7:58 - Like I said, we aims to please at Still Drivin.' Here's a helpful between-periods hint. If you're sitting on the side of the arena, basically from gates 6 through 14, the side where the main entrance is - don't wait on those long rest room lines in the concourse. Go out to the entrance area, down the escalator to the convention space, and use the rest rooms down there. Much shorter lines - in fact, tonight there was no wait at all. Much better than waiting on line in the concourse, getting bumped into and mauled like Cheri Oteri between the Butabi brothers, plus the extra walk is good for your health. Maybe everyone knows this already, but I just figured it out. Then again, I have been accused of being a little slow on the uptake.
Also, there was a guy in the men's room who looked like Jon Voight circa 'Mission: Impossible.' Wonder if he drives a Chrysler LeBaron.
8:05 - Start of the second period. The Isles are up one, but they need to step it up here. This is one of those dangerous games where you sleepwalk for half the game, the other team gets a couple of breaks and you end up losing at home to a beatable team. I hope I'm wrong.
8:17 - Andy Hilbert with a great shorthanded chance, stealing the puck and taking it around the net before flipping a pass to Fedotenko in front that didn't click. Great effort, though. Isles kill another one.
8:18 - Seconds after the kill, the Islanders are on the power play when Hlavac is called for tripping. But the advantage yields nothing, again.
8:22 - I have to note that the view from the Blog Box is fantastic, particularly when the Isles are in the offensive zone on this end of the ice. I haven't thanked the Islanders on the blog yet, so let me say how much I'm enjoying the opportunity to do this.
8:24 - Al Arbour's birthday is today! He goes for win number 740 Saturday night. One of the greatest coaches ever, in any sport, hands down. All class.
8:25 - Isles make it 2-0 with some pretty passing down low with 7:34 left. Vasicek from the circle throws it behind the goal line to Richard Park, who finds Satan in the slot. His shot gets past Denis and trickles toward the goal line, and Vasicek sweeps in to tap it in for the score. You can sense a momentum change here - let's see if the Isles can keep it up.
8:31 - Hockey is certainly the best sport to attend live, but being at any sporting event in person brings with it so many additional entertainment opportunities. Like this one: drunk guys hitting on Ice Girls. Never disappoints.
8:35 - Islanders charging: Park skates in alone with 1:35 left - can't get off a shot but sends the puck to Hilbert in front, but he can't tuck it in.
8:36 - No matter - the Isles score anyway when Mike Comrie breaks in on Denis, who makes the save, but Fedotenko puts the rebound in with just 47.3 seconds left in the period. Isles lead, 3-0, and will start the third period on the power play thanks to a penalty on Tampa's Andre Roy. The momentum has DEFINITELY shifted.
8:43 - Best between-periods on-ice event other than mites playing a 2-minute game -- the human puck shoot. Dad pushes junior on a plastic sled, starting at the red line and pushing off at the blue, a la curling. Kid has to slide into the net. It's a good thing my son didn't see this -- he'd be crawling over the glass to be out there.
9:00 - No goals on that power play, still 3-0. Instead, another helpful hint: Cheese steaks and keyboards don't mix. And the cheese steak - nothing to write home about.
9:03 - Another nice stop by D.P. in front, this time stoning Michel Ouellet. He's got star of the game written all over him at this point.
9:04 - Trent Hunter makes it four-zip six minutes into the third, putting a rebound past Denis after a slapper from the point by Andy Sutton, with a second assist to Comrie. Game over, man.
9:08 - Best Doors song ever on the P.A. right now - 'Peace Frog.' Blood in the streets in the town of New Haven...
9:10 - Three-on-one for the Isles but Satan fakes a dozen times before trying to get the puck to Brendan Witt in the slot, too late. Moments later, Witt is jawing with Shane O'Brien. Exchanging pleasantries.
9:13 - Something else that never gets old: highlight reel of big hits set to heavy-metal music. That's hockey. Reminds me of the first film I made in college - an homage to 'Greatest Sports Legends,' where the subject was my brother Joe, the best roller hockey player on Penn Street. The soundtrack was AC/DC and Queen. The professor gave me a 'B,' but one of my classmates - who played in a metal band - said the film took him back to his childhood. I've always played to the fans, and not the critics.
9:14 - Boyle hits the post on a Tampa power play, then Denis ends the advantage with a delay-of-game penalty. Not Tampa's night at all.
9:18 - FYI - the cheese steak is not sitting well. I feel like Ron Burgundy. "Milk was a bad choice."
9:19 - Paul Ranger rings one off the post. I just picked him up on my fantasy hockey team. I'm honestly torn between being disappointed that he didn't score (goals by defensemen count more than goals by forwards) and wanting D.P. to get the shutout. That's fantasy for you.
9:26 - Your final score: Islanders 4, Lightning 0. Stars of the game:
3 - Fedotenko
2 - Sillinger
1- D.P.! D.P.!
9:37 - The gathered media just interviewed Ted Nolan and the bloggers got the chance to interview Vasicek. Towards the end, my cell phone starts to ring. My wife wants me to pick up milk on the way home. Ah, married life.
All in all, a nice win by the Isles, putting the hammer down on a team that is winless on the road, including 0-for-3 in the New York metropolitan area.
ON THE RECENT SCHEDULE: It was a real tough week, the last 2 weeks, for us to have one game in 8 days and all of a sudden you have another five-day break. I give the guys a lot of credit. These guys worked hard in practice this week and they stayed focused.
ON DIPIETRO: You know, those superstars have a great way of coming back and having a super performance. The last game was one of those things where, I think it had a lot to do with no action. If there's any one position that's toughest on, it's goaltending.
ON PLAYING TAMPA BAY COMING OFF A LOPSIDED LOSS: I think we're both two teams coming off embarrassing losses and tonight we were just fortunate to come out ahead.
ON THE STRONG SECOND PERIOD: We got a little more into the game. It's really hard to play after not playing, we just sat out for 10 days, really. So it's hard to get your timing and everything back. Ricky played great in the first period, he held us in the game. We got our legs under us in the second period, and got the win.
ON HIS GOAL: It was a big goal for us. Parky made a great play, I was wide open as well, the puck just laid there and I swatted it. It's a game of bounces, but it counts and it was a big goal to make it 2-0.
ON THE LAYOFF: It's tough, you just practice over and over, it's just hard to stay focused. But it's over now and we've got a lot of games coming up. It's something to look forward to.
ON PLAYING FOR AL ARBOUR SATURDAY: It's going to be a great game, and it's sold out already so that's great. We're going to have a lot of people supporting us, and it's a much better feeling playing in front of a sellout.
ON DEFENDING AGAINST CROSBY: He's a tremendous player ... We try to focus on our team and play our style game and when he's on the ice, he can make the plays so you've got to be more wary when he's on the ice and he has the puck.