CALGARY, Alta. -- Despite a late surge, the New York Islanders were unable to overcome a four-goal Flames second period, dropping their split-squad game at Calgary’s Scotiabank Saddledome 5-3 Tuesday. Michael Grabner, Griffin Reinhart and Riley Wetmore scored for the Islanders, while Kevin Poulin and Anders Nilsson shared goaltending duties.
Fans watching the live stream of the game on Newyorkislanders.com got a chance to see the Islanders two most recent first-round selections, Ryan Pulock (2013) and Reinhart (2012) paired together on the back end in each player’s first NHL exhibition game. Summer acquisitions Cal Clutterbuck , Peter Regin, Chris Bruton, Wetmore and Justin Johnson also debuted for the orange and blue.
“Obviously this was a pretty exciting time for me,” Pulock said of his first NHL game action. “Even though tonight doesn’t count toward the standings, it’s the next step towards my goal. I had some nerves obviously, but I tried to keep my focus as narrow as possible.”
Grabner struck first for the Islanders at 3:20 of the first period on a partial breakaway down the left wing. Bruton’s outlet pass from the Islanders blue line sent Grabner down the left wing, and the winger wristed a shot top shelf over Calgary goaltender Joey MacDonald’s left shoulder.
Bruton, who later squared off in a fight with Zach McKelvie in the middle frame in front of his hometown crowd, was pleased with his own individual performance. The 26-year-old was signed to a contract in May after playing last season with AHL Peoria.
“I was excited and running on a ton of adrenaline,” Bruton said. “It was one of the biggest games of my life. I have friends and family here, so I was excited to get into game mode. Unfortunately we just couldn’t come back in the end.”
Four minutes into the second period, Lance Bouma tied the contest for Calgary. Roman Horak’s point shot caught Kevin Poulin’s blocker and bounced wide, and Bouma cleaned up the rebound for his first of the preseason.
The Flames took the lead later in the period courtesy of Dennis Wideman. The defenseman one-timed TJ Galiardi’s feed from the right side off a skate and into the net at 7:39.
Midway through the second stanza, Anders Nilsson replaced Poulin between the pipes. Poulin stopped 14-of-16, while Nilsson would go on to save 11-of-13.
The visitors got into penalty trouble late in the second period, with three minor penalties in less than three minutes. After killing off a 30-second 5-on-3, the Islanders went back to the two-man disadvantage moments later and weren’t as fortunate. Wideman scored on the 5-on-3 for his second tally of the contest, and 48 seconds later, with Calgary still on the power play, Galiardi scored from in close to make the score 4-1.
Reinhart gave the Islanders some momentum heading into the second intermission, cutting the deficit to two goals. The 19-year-old carried the puck down the left side over the blue line, deked his defender and fired a shot high, beating MacDonald at 19:52 of the middle frame.
“I had the puck in our own end and saw some ice, so I took advantage of it,” Reinhart said. “I saw the d-man backing up so I took the shot and fortunately it went in.”
Wetmore brought the Islanders within one late in the third period. A Matt Donovan wraparound was stopped, but Jason Clark and Wetmore outnumbered the Calgary defenders down low, and Wetmore punched it in.
“It was a great play by Persson and Donovan,” Wetmore said. “Matt went around the net, and I was fortunate to get two whacks at it.”
An empty-net marker by Curtis Glencross in the final minute iced the contest in Calgary’s favor.
The Islanders will reassemble in Regina, Saskatchewan, the site of Tuesday’s other split-squad game, before heading back to Long Island Wednesday. The next preseason tune-up will be Thursday, September 19, when they head to New Jersey to take on the Devils.
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