UNIONDALE, N.Y. – On a night when the NHL handed its stage to two of its worst teams, a relative no-name made the most of a fleeting chance to shine.
Emergency call-up Jesse Joensuu scored his first goal in his first game and the New York Islanders beat the Colorado Avalanche 4-2 Monday night in a matchup of cellar dwellers.
Joensuu played for the fourth time in four nights after a busy AHL weekend, and got the word he was heading to the majors just eight hours before the puck dropped.
“I can’t really describe it,” Joensuu said. “Hearing today that I’m going to play and then scoring a goal, it’s a little bit too much.”
Joensuu, brought up from Bridgeport on Monday because captain Bill Guerin is still in trade limbo, smacked in a loose puck from in front during New York’s two-goal second period that sent Colorado to its fifth straight loss.
The Islanders, who have the league’s worst record (20-36-7), got offence from another unexpected source as defenceman Bruno Gervais scored for the first time in 161 games – dating to April 18, 2006.
Dean McAmmond, playing his fifth game with the Islanders since being acquired from Ottawa, scored his second goal since his arrival and wore an ‘A’ on his jersey in the absence of Guerin and suspended alternate Brendan Witt.
Jeff Tambellini snapped a 14-game goal drought, and Jon Sim had three assists in the only game on the NHL schedule.
The Avalanche got two goals from Ryan Smyth, a one-time Islanders player who spurned their attempts to re-sign him in the summer of 2007. Colorado (28-35-1) is last in the West.
Colorado started its six-game road trip with a win at Washington, but dropped the final five. They were outscored 14-3 in consecutive losses to New Jersey and New York’s Rangers and Islanders.
“We started off well but maybe we got a little ahead of ourselves thinking we were overconfident,” Smyth said. “At times I think we got outworked.
“As a unit, we just didn’t buy in and simplify things the way the coach wanted to. That’s our own fault in here.”
Yann Danis made 19 saves, outdueling Colorado’s Andrew Raycroft, who stopped 27 shots.
Guerin sat out a second straight game as the Islanders try to trade him before the deadline on Wednesday.
A deal was expected over the weekend after Guerin was pulled from the lineup following warmups before New York played Buffalo on Saturday, but one didn’t materialize.
He’s still expected to be gone before the Islanders host the rival Rangers on Thursday, but coach Scott Gordon said he would put the captain back in the lineup in the unlikely event a trade isn’t completed.
The Islanders have won both games without Guerin.
“When your captain is going through something like this, everyone is wondering what is going on,” Sim said. “As a group, we still have to play hockey and I think we’re doing a good job of that.”
Joensuu probably will be back in the minors by then, too, Gordon said, but made a case to stay when he gave the Islanders a 2-1 lead 2:31 into the second. Gervais pushed the advantage to two goals with 6:56 left in the period when he knocked in a rebound of Sim’s shot.
Smyth, who heard boos every time he touched the puck, got the Avalanche into a 1-1 tie 33 seconds into the middle period with a power-play goal, and then brought Colorado within 3-2 at 1:02 of the third.
The 11,298 fans who braved the snowy elements on Long Island voiced their displeasure with Smyth all night.
The star forward was a trade-deadline acquisition who cried when he left Edmonton at the time of the deal and then signed with Colorado on the first day of free agency after being a rental player for New York.
“It was a short stint that I was here,” Smyth said. “They are loyal to their team and that’s what happens when a player gets traded in a transition stage.”
Notes: Islanders RW Trent Hunter sat out due to a lower leg injury. He will be re-evaluated on Tuesday. His absence caused New York to play a player short for the second straight game. … Colorado was without RW Darcy Tucker, another villain to Islanders fans, who still remember his hit in the 2002 playoffs while with Toronto that knocked out former captain Michael Peca with a serious knee injury.