ISLANDERS 9 PITTSBURGH 3Dedicate it to Howatt, Gillies, Nystrom and the fans


10:05 pm: Matt Martin may have swung and missed with his free shot at Max Talbot, but otherwise the Islanders pounded and pounded and pounded the Penguins repeatedly – physically, psychologically and on the scoreboard tonight in a 9-3 humiliation over the Penguins before the deserving die-hards tonight at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

The Islanders led 4-0 after the first period, 8-2 after the second – and as they say, it wasn’t that close. The Islanders made their stand and exacted some revenge over the Penguins, as thinned out by injuries at forward as the Islanders are in defense and goal.

The league will probably issue at least one press release in the next 48 hours as a result of this tilt. Suspensions will come out of tonight’s carnage, which included some cheap shots, heavyweight and middleweight battles and line brawls. The home fans got another delicious dose of the Micheal Haley show, his first NHL appearance of the season, leading many to wonder why he doesn’t wear an Islanders uniform more often.

Michael Grabner scored the 20th and 21st goals of his rookie season. John Tavares had a goal and three assists, while Matt Moulson had two goals and one assist. Travis Hamonic got the Gordie Howe hat trick. Haley scored a goal and had three major altercations.

This was ice hockey as it oughta be when your team has been beaten down, abandoned by a Russian goalie in semi-retirement, been called “Lowly” in the headline of every game story (win or lose) and opponents like Talbot are taking liberties with your skilled players.

Now here’s the challenge. Tonight was glorious, an image boost for the locker room and a gift to the fans. But if the Islanders go to Buffalo on Sunday or to lowly Ottawa on Tuesday – or both – and lay an egg, what will Friday Night at the Fights mean? Not nearly as much. The Islanders have won two very impressive games in a row. Make it five. Use the emotion to go on a run of something like 8-2-2. Butch Goring said this win will bring the Islanders together and make them better. Prove it.

The Islanders came together as a team on Friday night in soul-stirring fashion. It will mean so much more if it sticks for the rest of the season.

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