Saturday, December 27, 2008

Guerin Hits Milestone as Isles Break Streak

Boxing Day, a holiday when those in the upper classes traditionally present gifts to those of lower status, held true to form for the Islanders in 2008. The Isles, most certainly residing in the lower class of the NHL this season, found themselves festooned with all sorts of goodies on this particular December 26th. While the Toronto Maple Leafs assumed coming in that they would be the team departing Long Island with an easy two points in their holiday basket, they headed home empty-handed and disappointed.

First off, franchise goalie Rick DiPietro returned from a two month injury hiatus and started in goal. He energized the crowd as soon as the starting lineups were announced and he seemed to do the same for his teammates. The team came out looking fresh right from the opening puck drop and played with that same energy for the entire game, a complete effort that has been lacking in these parts for quite a while.

Kyle Okposo caught Toronto netminder Vesa Toskala off guard at 3:47 of the first period, sending a flukey goal into the net from a tough angle low in the right-hand circle. Nevertheless, it was 1-0 Islanders early.

Much maligned Lee Stempniak evened the score for the Leafs late in the period, but for some reason the Isles seemed to go into the locker room without losing their edge or energy.

In the 2nd period, Lady Luck appeared to smile on rookie Josh Bailey for the first time in his NHL career, as he seemingly scored his first NHL tally. It turned out the lady was an Indian giver, though, as video replay credited the goal to captain Bill Guerin, the 399th of his storied professional tenure.

Guerin added another goal to start the 3rd, and the crowd recognized the achievement, chanting his name and standing in honor of the milestone. Guerin is only the 8th American-born player to reach the 400 goal threshold.

Defenseman Freddy Meyer blasted a shot from the point past Toskala at 8:39 of the 3rd to give the Isles a 4-1 lead and basically wrap up the game. Kyle assisted on it, his 7th point of the year.

Afterward, the Isles seemed in a pretty festive mood, relieved that they had not only broken a 10 game losing streak, but confident in knowing they have their #1 goaltender back between the pipes. While Toronto strolled into the Coliseum having won 5 of their last 7 and expecting a gift by playing the lowly Isles, it was the Canadian squad who received an unwanted, unexpected surprise on this night.

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