Michael Grabner’s goal in the seventh round of the shootout propelled the Blue Team to a 6-5 victory over the White Team in the Islanders intra-squad scrimmage Wednesday at Nassau Coliseum. Matt Moulson scored twice in regulation and once in the shootout for the Blue Team in the Islanders lone tune-up before Saturday night’s season opener.
The teams went into the shootout with the White Team leading 5-3. Frans Nielsen scored in the first round for the Blue Team and Moulson found the back of the net in the fifth round to knot the score 5-5 and send the breakaway competition into sudden death. Grabner finished the contest in the seventh round with a forehand past White Team goaltender Evgeni Nabokov. Blue Team goaltender Rick DiPietro stood his ground through all seven rounds, not allowing a single shootout goal.
The Blue Team consisted mostly of players currently in Islanders Training Camp, while the White Team was composed primarily of Bridgeport Sound Tigers, as well as junior players Ryan Strome and Griffin Reinhart. Islanders Head Coach Jack Capuano was impressed by the preparedness of the White Team, whose players have taken part in regular season games since September.
“I thought they played hard,” Capuano said. “You can tell they’ve been skating since September and that’s good for our team, because with a shortened training camp, the battle levels aren’t there, but tonight, our guys played hard.”
Moulson put the Blue Team on the board 5:40 into the opening frame. DiPietro, who started the game for the White Team and switched sides midway through the second period, stopped Mark Streit’s initial point shot, but after a scramble in front, Moulson powered the puck home, giving the Blue Team a 1-0 lead.
The White Team evened the score three minutes later courtesy of Nino Niederreiter. He skated down the right wing and went around a defender before switching to his forehand. Nabokov, playing for the Blue Team in the first half, made one save, but the winger’s second shot made it through. Ryan Strome and Dallas Jackson earned the assists. Later in the period, Aaron Ness fired a shot from the point on the power play that beat Nabokov top-shelf, putting the White Team up 2-1.
Moulson’s second tally of the contest early in the second period tied the game at 2-2. Tavares dropped a pass back to Streit, whose shot was tipped past DiPietro 47 seconds into the frame.
“That was a great play by Mark,” Moulson said. “He always has his head up, so my job is pretty easy – get to the net and put my stick on the ice.”
Kyle Okposo gave the Blue Team the lead three minutes later on the power play. Matt Martin’s shot from the left circle hit a defender and slowed down on its way to the net. Okposo picked up the loose change right in front and lit the lamp.
The goaltenders switched sides 10:27 into the second period. DiPietro tended the net for the Blue Team the rest of the evening, while Nabokov played for the White Team.
The White Team rattled off the next three goals before the end of regulation. Late in the second period, Jack Combs fed a saucer pass from the left side wall to Johan Sundstrom for a breakaway in the slot. The center utilized the time and space and put his shot top-shelf. With seven seconds remaining in the period, Scott Campbell gave the White Team a 4-3 lead. The forward deflected a Griffin Reinhart slap shot originating from the right half-wall.
Jack Combs boosted the White Team’s lead to 5-3 in the third period, deflecting a Ty Wishart point shot past Nabokov.
After the game, Tavares said that the Blue Team players were conditioned well, despite the long layoff for many of them.
“We felt more comfortable as it went on, so it was good to have a scrimmage and play with that kind of intensity,” he said. “My lungs felt pretty good. The legs were a little bit heavy the first few shifts, but I started to get into a rhythm. There’s still a lot of adjusting to do.”
The Islanders open the regular season Saturday, Jan. 19, when they take on the New Jersey Devils at Nassau Coliseum. Game time is scheduled for 7:00 p.m.
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