ISLANDERS 3, MONTREAL 2
By Jason Lockhart
Danish-native Frans Nielsen scored his first NHL goal and added an assist to help the Islanders pull even with Montreal in the Eastern Conference standings with a 3-2 win over the Canadiens in front of a sold out crowd of 16,234 at the Nassau Coliseum, Saturday afternoon. The win gives the Islanders 70 points, good for a spot in the seventh position with Montreal, which has played 64 games to the Islanders' 62.
"I was so pumped for Frans," said Islanders and Bridgeport linemate Jeff Tambellini. "He's the first kid to grow up in Denmark and do what he's been doing, so that's phenomenal. He's been a great friend of mine the whole year. Nielsen and I played every shift together down in Bridgeport. Whether it's PK, 5-on-5 or power play we're out there. Since we've been up, we've been doing everything together, so it was nice to be out there when he scored his first."
Tambellini and Jason Blake also tallied goals while Richard Park set-up two goals for the Islanders, who improved to 4-1 on their current seven-game home stand. Blake's goal was his 29th on the season a career high after totaling 28 last year in 76 games. Rick DiPietro earned his 27th win of the season, stopping 20 of 22 shots. Rookie netminder Jaroslav Halak allowed three goals on 31 shots.
Rookies Tambellini and Nielsen combined for the first Islanders goal, 2:43 into the game. Nielsen's wraparound on the backhand was blocked aside by Halak, but Tambellini batted the puck out of mid-air into the back of the net. The goal was Tambellini's second this season, and Nielsen's first NHL point.
Montreal's dangerous power play evened the score at one while skating 5-on-3. Sheldon Souray's blast from the point bulged the twine with 6:06 remaining in the first period.
Blake tallied his career-high 29th goal with 4:04 left in the first period. While at neutral ice, Viktor Kozlov fed Blake, who skated into the offensive zone and scored on the backhand.
"I'm just trying to do the little things right," said Blake. "It feels good to reach a new career-high, but the team win is the most important thing. It was a good day."
Nielsen went a step further in the second period notching his first career NHL goal at 9:08. Nielsen corralled the puck in the slot and waited patiently for Halak to go down before flipping it over him. Park assisted on his second goal.
"I lost the faceoff, but Parky did a great job winning the puck back," said Nielsen. "The goalie came out, so I held onto the puck and I had an open net. It was pretty exciting."
With 3:50 gone by in the third period, one of Montreal's Long Island-natives, Chris Higgins scored to cut the lead to 3-2.
Marc-Andre Bergeron saved a goal when he blocked Alexander Perezhogin's shot headed for the back of the net mid-way through the third period.
The Islanders continue their home stand against Philadelphia on Tuesday.
Five Stars of the Game:
1. Frans Nielsen: A big day for the Dane
2. Richard Park: Two assists
3. Chris Higgins: Scored a goal for Montreal in his return to Long Island
4. Jason Blake: Set a new career-high in goals
5. Jeff Tambellini: Scored his second goal of the season
Stat of the Game: Frans Nielsen contributed a goal and an assist in only 3:28 of ice time.
Fans of the Game: It was a special day for eight-year-old Matthew. Not only was he excited to see all of the mascots, especially Sparky, it was also his birthday. Matthew's dad, Brian took him to the game to celebrate his birthday. When asked, who his favorite player was, Matthew replied "Jason Blake because he's fast." We seem to have a lot of Blake fans out there.
Slapshots: The Islanders are 7-2-1 against Montreal in their past ten meetings at the Nassau Coliseum... The Islanders have earned points in 13 of 15 games since the All-Star break and are riding a three-game winning streak...The Islanders improved to 22-4-3 when they score the first goal of the game...The loss was the first for Jaroslav Halak, who had won his first three NHL starts.
Game Operations: It was Mascot Day at the Nassau Coliseum as Sparky and 11 of his mascot friends from the NHL and around Long Island took the Coliseum ice and stands throughout the game. Among the guests were Storm from Bridgeport, Fin from Vancouver, Sabretooth from Buffalo, Spike from the Long Island Lizards and the Hofstra Pride Lion...Patrick Kelly, who, was diagnosed at birth with a rare muscular disease called Myotubular Myopathy attended his first Islanders game. Due to his condition, Patrick has limited mobility. With the help of the New York Islanders as well as donations from hundreds of other Long Islanders, the Kelly family was surprised on January 14 when the Bruno Gervais, Mike Dunham and Chris Anthony of the New York Dragons drove up to their benefit event in a new 2007 Ford Freestar van equipped with handicap accessories. Today, Patrick and his family drove around the ice in their new van during the first period intermission...Thomas Rosati was honored today as Commerce Bank's Hometown Hero after saving three people, who had fallen into a frozen pond.
39 Rick DiPietro
1 Mike Dunham
32 Brendan Witt - 6 Sean Hill
14 Chris Campoli - 44 Freddy Meyer
3 Tom Poti - 47 Marc-Andre Bergeron
11 Andy Hilbert - 18 Mike Sillinger - 7 Trent Hunter
12 Chris Simon - 27 Randy Robitaille - 55 Jason Blake
45 Arron Asham - 25 Viktor Kozlov - 81 Miroslav Satan
10 Richard Park - 51 Frans Nielsen - 15 Jeff Tambellini
41 Jaroslav Halak
30 David Aebischer
44 Sheldon Souray - 32 Mark Streit
79 Andrei Markov - 8 Mike Komisarek
51 Francis Bouillonn - 25 Mathieu Dandenault
21 Chris Higgins - 11 Saku Koivu - 73 Michael Ryder
20 Mike Johnson - 14 Radek Bonk - 57 Garth Murray
46 Andrei Kostitsyn - 35 Tomas Plekanec - 15 Sergei Samsonov
42 Alexander Perezhogin - 40 Maxim Lapierre - 62 Duncan Milroy