STRONG FIRST SPURS ISLANDERS TO "W"
By Kerry Gwydir
First-period goals by Mattias Weinhandl and Shawn Bates, along with a powerplay tally by Oleg Kvasha in the second and a Jason Blake goal in the third, helped the Isles defeat the Devils, 4-1, on Tuesday night at the Continental Airlines Arena in New Jersey. Rick DiPietro was strong between the pipes, stopping 25 shots for the victory.
Both the Islanders and Devils had been battling through tough stretches of late. Steve Stirling's team, coming off 5-1 and 6-0 losses the past two contests to Pittsburgh and Ottawa, respectively, needed to make a statement to start this game.
And they did just that by coming out with the first two tallies of the night in the opening stanza while pressuring the New Jersey defense for much of the first 20 minutes. The offensive pressure was so noticeable that at one point in the first the hometown fans were booing their own squad while they were penned in their own zone late in the period.
The Isles got on the board first at the 2:57 mark when Weinhandl notched his first of the year. The winger deflected a long wrister off the stick of Brad Lukowich between the pads of Scott Clemmensen. As that happened, Eric Godard and Darren Langdon squared off in a battle of heavyweights while the puck was entering the net. Both were assessed fighting majors while the goal stood. Ironically, the goal was credited originally to Godard, but was later changed. Arron Asham garnered the second helper on the sequence.
Bates increased the lead with 8:25 left in the same stanza with a sharp-angled goal that Clemmensen most likely would want back. The speedy forward snapped a wrister from the right corner along the goal line that somehow was misplayed by the Devil's keeper into the net. Chris Campoli had started the play in the Islander end of the ice with Robert Nilsson being credited with the second assist.
After failing to take a penalty in the first, both Asham and Campoli were sent to the box past the midway point of the period - sending the hosts on a 5-on-3 powerplay for 39 seconds. The Devils immediately answered when Vladimir Malakhov ripped a one-timer from the right point inside the left post past DiPietro's glove.
An offensive-zone hooking penalty to Viktor Kozlov helped the Isles convert with the extra man with 2:21 to go in the second. Kvasha notched his second of the season after Brent Sopel whistled a slapper from the right point off a feed from Miroslav Satan, who was curling from behind the Devil's net. Kvasha, situated in front of Clemmensen, redirected the puck on the doorstep as Alexei Yashin assisted on the play, as well.
With 25 seconds left in the period and the Isles killing yet another powerplay, this time with Mike York in the box, Stirling's team nearly added another score. Blake, who had raced past Brian Rafalski at the Isle's blueline to generate a breakaway, beat Clemmensen with a deke, but hit the left pipe with the goaltender down and out.
Blake, however, redeemed himself with 1:02 left in the game when he converted a 2-on-1 pass from Bates to seal the two points for the blue and orange.
Petteri Nokelainen and Tomi Pettinen were the Islander's scratches...
(79) Alexei Yashin-(12) Oleg Kvasha-(81) Miroslav Satan
(21) Robert Nilsson-(16) Mike York-(37) Mark Parrish
(55) Jason Blake-(17) Shawn Bates-(7) Trent Hunter
(49) Eric Godard-(45) Arron Asham-(11) Mattias Weinhandl
(77) Alexei Zhitnik-(24) Radek Martinek
(25) Brad Lukowich-(44) Janne Niinimaa
(14) Chris Campoli-(24) Radek Martinek
(39) Rick DiPietro
(30) Garth Snow
(22) Viktor Kozlov-(23) Scott Gomez-(29) Grant Marshall
(20) Jay Pandolfo-(11) John Madden-(15) Jamie Langenbrunner
(18) Sergei Brylin -(9) Zach Parise-(14) Brian Gionta
(17) Darren Langdon-(10) Erik Rasmussen-(25) Cam Janssen
(24) Richard Matvichuk-(2) Vladimir Malakhov
(5) Colin White-(7) Paul Martin
(8) Sean Brown-(28) Brian Rafalski
(40) Scott Clemmensen
(31) Ari Ahonen