ON KONOPKA, STREIT AND SEASON TICKET PRICESIslanders strong early, but lose 3-2 to Washington

9:55 pm: The Islanders closed out the month of February with a record of 8-5-1 after a 3-2 loss tonight before the first announced sellout crowd of the season at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

The home team dominated the first period from start to finish and then took a 2-0 lead early in the second on a goal by Travis Hamonic. However, once the Capitals got their legs and nerve back – which they seemed to do when Brooks Laich scored their first goal in two games at 9:45 of the second – the comeback seemed inevitable.

The very next shift said a lot. Bruce Boudreau reunited Alex Ovechkin with Alex Semin and Nicklas Backstrom and the dazzling trio kept the puck in the Islanders’ zone for a while. Doing their best to keep the puck out of the net were Islanders defensemen Mark Katic and Jack Hillen. On other shifts, assistant coach Dean Chynoweth played Ty Wishart with Bruno Gervais. The Islanders are hurting on defense. The spirit was willing, but eventually it caught up to them against the skilled Capitals. Mike Knuble and Semin scored early in the third to give Washington a 3-2 lead.

The Islanders were screwed late in the game by a pair of either sleeping or disrespectful linesman. With Al Montoya pulled, the Caps cleared the puck into the Islanders’ end. Although an Islander was not near the puck, icing was waved off.

Positives: Kyle Okposo (first goal) is starting to come on. Travis Hamonic is one terrific, young, all-zone defenseman. Katic skated well and looks like he could be a depth player. Andrew MacDonald was solid for over 25 minutes. Please feel free to add your own in Comments.

On the negative side, the Islanders – including Michael Grabner and John Tavares – missed on good scoring chances. For the first time in a start, Al Montoya did not make the big saves when needed. I thought Josh Bailey would have a better game. Rob Schremp did little to impress the scouts in attendance. Jack Capuano gave little icetime to his fourth line of Zenon Konopka (6:09, including another decisive victory in a fight), Micheal Haley (5:39) and Matt Martin (7:22, including another shift Montoya pulled).

The Islanders remain 13 points behind eighth-place Carolina with 19 games left in the regular season.

Konopka Wants to Stay: Since Point Blank’s post on Friday about the Islanders listening to offers for Konopka – to be clear, they are not being overwhelmed, nor is there a bidding war – sources close to Konopka say he has made it known that he does not want to leave the team. According to one, Konopka is willing to sign another one-year contract with the Islanders for the same salary ($600,000) he is being paid this season.

My bet is on Garth Snow not receiving a trade offer worth considering for Konopka, and then the practical general manager will have more time to evaluate whether he wants to bring the fourth line center and pugilist back for another season.

Season Ticket Prices Going Down? My son Luke and I took in Saturday’s game, my first visit to the Coliseum in over three months. It was fun to just sit back, enjoy the hockey game and meet so many readers. Nice job by the Islanders fans taking advantage of the $20 tickets, Give-n-Go partial plan and the availability on StubHub to support their team and fill the barn.

After a few quiet months, the fans have responded strongly to Ferocious Friday and the team’s improved play. Eric Hornick of MSG Network tweeted that this is the first time in almost two years that the Islanders have had three consecutive crowds of more than 13,000.

More than that, a hat tip to the season ticketholders that have hung in during this fourth consecutive season without a competitive bid for a playoff berth. I was told by a few people who stopped by our seats tonight that Islanders management is taking a serious look at new, more affordable pricing options to help the franchise maintain its current subscriber base and add more during the offseason. Good idea.

Streit Should Be Held Out: Mark Streit told reporters today that he wants to play this season. The Islanders’ No. 1 defenseman, who suffered a serious shoulder injury during a training camp scrimmage, was cleared to practice (but without contact) earlier this week.

I’m usually all for athletes playing when their doctors and trainers tell them it’s okay, but it’s difficult to see the point in Streit’s case. March arrives on Tuesday. The Islanders have 19 games remaining and Streit has yet to be cleared to absorb contact in practice. I would expect to see the Islanders announce in a few weeks that Streit will continue to practice and make his return to the lineup 100% at the start of the 2011-12 season. Anything else would seem foolish.

Trade Deadline Open Thread Starts Sunday: Point Blank will host an open thread on the Islanders’ activity at the trade deadline beginning Sunday afternoon. Although I would not expect a major impact move, you never know. Kevin Schultz and I will carry the thread for more than 24 hours.

Comments on tonight’s game and all the notes above are invited. Thank you.