Monday, April 29, 2002

Isles top Leafs, force Game Seven

Islanders 5, Maple Leafs 3

AP Hockey Writer

        UNIONDALE, N.Y. — In simple white lettering on a black screen above the ice, the video monitor implored the New York Islanders to win “For Kenny and Michael.”

        They did.

        Kip Miller and Mariusz Czerkawski scored 38 seconds apart early in the third period as the Islanders — playing without their steadiest defenseman and captain — tied their first-round series with the Toronto Maple Leafs with a 5-3 victory Sunday night.

        Game 7 is Tuesday night in Toronto.

        “I think the pressure will be on them,” Miller said. “They were the better team all year. They have home ice. Their crowd will not like it if they don't win.”

        Toronto's Tie Domi thinks the Maple Leafs will be rewarded.

        “We worked for home ice advantage all year,” he said. “Hopefully, it'll work out for us.”

        Questionable hits by the Maple Leafs in Game 5 left Kenny Jonsson sidelined indefinitely with a concussion and Michael Peca out at least six months with a torn ligament in his knee.

        “The cards you're dealt are the cards you're dealt and you have to play with them,” Islanders coach Peter Laviolette said. “The cards that we played tonight were warriors. All 20 of them.”

        After Czerkawski's second goal of the game gave the Islanders a 5-2 lead at 3:49, the rowdy Nassau Coliseum crowd chanted, “Michael Peca! Michael Peca!”

        Peca watched the game from a luxury box high above the ice.

        “The crowd, it gave you chills to be here,” said Eric Cairns, who battered Shayne Corson in a late fight. “You can't put it into words.”

        Miller, who spent the first half of the season in the AHL, scored at 3:11 of the third for his third goal of the series. He then assisted on Czerkawski's goal.

        Adrian Aucoin and Alexei Yashin also scored for the Islanders, who had the worst record in the league last season.

        Wade Belak, Jonas Hoglund and Gary Roberts scored for Toronto, which remained without Mats Sundin (broken wrist) and Mikael Renberg (hamstring/pelvis).

        “It was a hard-fought game,” said Travis Green, who assisted on Belak's goal. “The Islanders played hard tonight — give them credit. We just want to put this one behind us and move on.”

        Islanders goalie Chris Osgood turned in a strong game, stopping 31 shots.

        Curtis Joseph alternated between brilliant and baffling for Toronto. He made spectacular stops in difficult situations but also faltered when he was screened. He couldn't be blamed much for Czerkawski's second goal — he had been tackled behind the net by teammate Bryan McCabe. Joseph came out of net to clear the puck, but got in the way of the racing McCabe. Czerkawski whipped the puck into an open net for a 5-2 lead.

        “Good fortune,” Czerkawski said.

        Roberts scored a power-play goal at 6:41 of the third to close the gap.

        Joseph finished with 29 saves.

        “It seems like he's having a tough time in our building,” Miller said of Joseph. “Maybe it's dark, maybe he's not seeing it well.”

        Yashin thought the Islanders had something to do with it.

        “Cujo's a great goalie, he doesn't have any weaknesses,” Yashin said, “but when you create traffic, like we did tonight, then he can't see the puck.”

        Some scores were settled in the final 2 minutes of the second and third periods.

        In the second, with the Islanders leading 3-2, Toronto's Roberts and Darcy Tucker — the players who caused the Jonsson and Peca injuries — were the victims. After a partially missed check by Cairns on Roberts, Cairns went flying into the Toronto bench. As he bent over the boards, his stick jerked up and cut the side of Roberts' face. No penalty was called.

        A few seconds later, New York's Steve Webb nailed Tucker with a high hit into the boards. Tucker fell to the ice and then chased after the referees to angrily argue his case. No penalty was called.

        With 2 minutes left in the game, Cairns pummeled Corson with a series of 12 punches to the head. A few feet away, Shawn Bates and Tucker fought to a draw.

        As Bates and Cairns left the ice with fighting penalties, they tapped fists. But Cairns was more diplomatic later.

        Said Cairns: “As long as you win the game, it doesn't matter who wins the fight.”

        As for the late fistcuffs, Toronto coach Pat Quinn chalked it up to frustration at the officiating.

        “In a series where one team or the other thinks they're being stiffed by the nature of what's being allowed and what's not,” Quinn said, “sometimes, at the end, you've had enough.”

        With Peca and Jonsson out, the Islanders naturally had difficulty on defense. New York took a quick 2-0 lead midway through the first period, only to see it disappear by the end of the first twenty minutes.

        Czerkawski scored a power-play goal at 5:07 and Yashin notched his second goal of the series at 13:26.

        Belak and Hoglund scored just over two minutes apart late in the period to tie it.

        Notes: The Canadian national anthem was drowned out with boos before the game. ... Tucker had the flu and took an IV before the game. ... NHL disciplinarian Colin Campbell addressed the media by speaker phone before the game to defend the league's decision to not suspend either Roberts or Tucker for their hits in Game 5. Campbell determined neither player intended to injure so. ... The Islanders called up enforcer Ray Schultz from Bridgeport before the game.


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