Saturday, October 16, 2010

Jurcina. Who Knew?

Prior to Saturday night’s (10/16) game against the Colorado Avalanche, Milan Jurcina’s high water mark for goals in a season was six. And that was in his rookie campaign with Boston back in 2005-2006.

The great news for the Islanders and their fans was that he scored one-third of that total against Colorado’s Craig Anderson on this night, leading the Islanders to an important win and a pair of big points.

The Isles, who banked only one of a possible four points on their short road trip to Washington and Pittsburgh, needed a convincing win to reassure their fans (and perhaps themselves) that the hard work they have been putting in really does pay off.

After an opening period rife with scoring chances for both sides, especially a few that could have been converted by the Islanders, the score stood deadlocked at 0-0 and the shots on goals were fairly even as well. The distribution favored Colorado, but only slightly at 9-7.

It took a shorthanded goal, and by defenseman Milan Jurcina at that, but the Islanders led 1-0 at the 13:06 mark of the second. Coach Scott Gordon had been unhappy with the way the Islanders had been performing in the period up until that point, but the strike was just what they needed. Josh Bailey, who added 13 pounds in the offseason, most of it seemingly muscle, assisted on the goal.

Just five more minutes passed before “Rocket” Jurcina (as the venerable Stan Fischler named him after the game) struck again, this time from a very tough angle. Suddenly, and somewhat unexpectedly, the Isles held a two goal margin. According to Jurcina, this was his first two goal game on his ledger since he performed the feat 4 seasons prior with the Bruins.

Bailey, not content with just an assist, lit the lamp 59 seconds later and suddenly it was the Avalanche feeling buried. The Islanders seemed to be on their way to an easy victory courtesy of the quick 3 goal outburst and spotless play in net from Dwayne Roloson.

Chris Stewart, who sparred with Zenon Konopka just 5 seconds into the game, got one back for the visitors at 2:19 in the 3rd. New York General Manager Garth Snow's newest acquisition, Michael Grabner, soon payed dividends though, ballooning the lead back up to three goals with his first goal as a member of the franchise.

Colorado scored one more before the final horn blew, but John Tavares sealed the victory for New York with an empty netter. For Tavares, it was his first goal of the season. He returned after a two game absence from a mild concussion, insisting that he felt fine on the ice.

“It was huge. We needed something like that,” first-star Jurcina said after the win.

His brief analysis was dead on, as the win propelled the Isles to the top of their division at 2-1-2, though it is a bit early to be concerned with standings. Points are points, though, and any they pick up now will be fewer that they’ll need to scrap for later in the season. If the Islanders are serious about making the playoffs this year, and all the talk in the locker room echoes that sentiment, then this was a vital victory for the team from Uniondale.

Next up for the Isles: They head out of town for games against Toronto, both Florida teams, and Montreal. Only one more home game is on the horizon in October for the Islanders, 10/29 against the Canadiens.

News and Notes:

- Kyle Okposo was present, shoulder in a sling, at tonight’s home game. He was unavailable for comment, though.

- Trent Hunter was scratched from this one as he recovers from a foot injury he suffered earlier in the week.

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