Christopher Gibson misses 1st shutout as Islanders’ slide continues

Jordan Eberle scored against his former team but Connor McDavid prevailed to get the Oilers a shootout win over the Islanders, taking it 2-1 for the final.

Doug Weight was John Tortorella-sour.

He was spittin’ mad, steam cascading from his ears after his New York Islanders gave up a fluke goal to Connor McDavid with 1:50 to play, then lost 2-1 in a shootout.

But Christopher Gibson, the Islanders goalie whose head that lucky puck bounced in off? The rookie with the wicked history, who was victimized one more time by McDavid in the shootout?

Even after this heart-breaking loss, he was still just happy to be here.

A Finnish-born son of a kickboxing black belt, who left home as a teenager for Wilcox, Sask., and the Athol Murray College of Notre Dame, then played his major junior in Quebec, Gibson was 110 seconds away from his first ever NHL shutout.

Instead, he’ll have a story to tell his kids one day, as McDavid – who played 27:27 – snatched that shutout, and Gibson’s second career NHL win, away all in the same night.

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“It’s been a long and hard path, to be honest. It hasn’t been easy,” said Gibson, who did post-game interviews in three languages (English, French and Finnish) after Thursday’s loss. “That’s why I cherish every single moment that I’m here. Every single minute, every single chance that I get to play, I’m excited, and I am happy about everything.”

Well, that makes one of him.

Weight’s club has now lost eight straight. He can see the playoffs disappearing like the setting sun on an ocean horizon.

“What can you say?” came the first question.

“Nothing that’s … nothing. I can’t,” Weight offered.

Of curse, the late, game-tying goal hurts. But the way it went in — a McDavid centring pass hit Brandon Davidson’s stick, then deflected off of Gibson’s skull cap and into the goal — truly stings.

“It hurts when we take Connor away and we watch film and if you have to stand next to him, you stand next to him, not like any other human being because he can take off,” Weight burned. “And our D cheats 15 feet above; we’ve done a great job throughout the day, but he’s going to get his chances. So we earned it.”

Weight is being too hard on his club. It wasn’t even a scoring chance, but somehow it found the back of the net for McDavid’s 31st of the season.

I mean, that puck had about as much chance of finding the net as the Finland-born son of English parents, who wound through the Los Angeles, Toronto and Islanders organizations, has of making his way into an NHL goal one day.

We’re betting he was the only kid named “Gibson” in the classroom in Espoo, Finland, right?

“Oh, yeah,” the 25-year-old laughed. “My dad (Peter) has his own martial arts studio back home in Finland. He’s a great athlete and a great guy. My mom was living in England, and I guess my dad wanted a change. They ended up moving to Finland.”

Speaking of changes, let’s see if the coach has cooled down yet.

“Gibson played pretty well. Do you think of letting him run a little here?” Weight was asked.

“That’s like the second-hardest thing to think of after a loss like that,” Weight said. “The first is getting a camera shoved in your face after the eighth straight loss. That’s the hardest thing to deal with for me, personally. I’m not good at it.”

Weight wasn’t rude. Just mega-frustrated after his team’s eight defeats down the stretch (0-4-4). By all accounts, the Islanders were winning games earlier this season while playing worse hockey. Now they’re tightening things up pretty well, and they can’t win for losing.

“They got a lucky bounce at the end. It’s frustrating to leave here with only one point tonight,” Gibson said, in a soft-spoken demeanour that belies his Finnish upbringing.

And he’ll remember McDavid, you can bet on that.

“He’s a great player. He has a lot of speed, and … he has great hands, quick hands. I bit on his (shootout) move and he ended up scoring.”

Welcome to the big leagues, son. It happens to the best of ‘em.


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