Michael Grabner scored twice and added an assist, and Evgeni Nabokov stopped 26 shots, plus six more in the shootout, as the New York Islanders left Prudential Center with two points after a 4-3 shootout win against the New Jersey Devils on Friday.
The game saw three ties during regulation, as New Jersey led in the first and second periods, and the Islanders had a lead in the third. Matt Moulson’s game-deciding tally in the sixth round proved to be the difference as the Islanders opened the season with a win for the first time since 2007-08.
“We had more chances in that game than we've had in a long time, but we just didn't capitalize,” Islanders head coach Jack Capuano said. “It was a little more wide open than I anticipated. From game to game you don't know what to expect, but I thought it was a real good hockey game. We were down and we battled back.”
The Devils took an early 1-0 lead on Damien Brunner’s goal three minutes in. His wrist shot glanced off the glove of Evgeni Nabokov before bouncing into the net.
Five minutes later, Grabner crossed the blue line with the puck and weaved around the New Jersey defense before banking his shot off New Jersey netminder Martin Brodeur’s pads and in.
“When I looked up I tried to go to my backhand, but [Brodeur] was already on the ground so I just tried to squeak it by him,” Grabner said. “I felt pretty good today and it was nice to get some chances. A big part of that was my linemates finding me too.”
The game remained tied until Michael Ryder gave the Devils the advantage in the second period. A bouncing puck landed on his stick, and his shot from just inside the left circle avoided a sea of bodies in front, giving the home team a 2-1 lead at the 4:46 mark.
But Grabner struck again, using his speed as a catalyst for another great scoring chance. Josh Bailey banked a pass off the boards from the Islanders blue line ahead for Grabner, who streaked into the right circle and wristed it five-hole past Brodeur.
The Islanders took their first lead of the game just a minute into the third on Frans Nielsen’s first of the season. Nielsen dropped a pass to Grabner, who returned the puck to the centerman down low. Nielsen backhanded it from a severe angle between Brodeur’s pads to make the score 3-2.
Matt Donovan earned the secondary assist on the go-ahead goal, marking the first point of the 23-year-old’s NHL career.
The Islanders lead was short-lived, as Brunner converted a rebound opportunity later in the frame for his second of the night. Nabokov stopped the original shot by Anton Volchenkov, but Brunner cleaned up the garbage in front and roofed the second chance at 7:34.
Pierre-Marc Bouchard had the best scoring chance for either team after that point. Brock Nelson fed a centering pass to Bouchard, whose backhand chance was equaled by Brodeur’s sliding pad save with six-and-a-half minutes to play.
Neither team mustered much in the way of scoring chances during overtime, and the game was tied after 65 minutes of play.
In the breakaway competition, Nabokov made pad saves on Brunner, Ryane Clowe, Patrik Elias, Travis Zajac, Ryder and Jaromir Jagr. At the other end, Brodeur proved up to the challenge, denying Nielsen, Bouchard, John Tavares, Bailey and Kyle Okposo in the first five rounds.
But in the sixth, Moulson deked to his forehand, and with Brodeur centered between the posts, snapped a shot just inside the post for the deciding goal.
Following the game, Nabokov said that while the season opener may have had more ups and downs than the Islanders would have liked, earning two points on the road against a division rival is a great way to start the 2013-14 season.
“It was a typical first game where I think guys were battling with themselves,” Nabokov said. “Even I was battling a little bit, but we found a way to win. We talk about finding a way to win all the time when you're not feeling the best or playing the best, but we found two points. It's good for our team, it's good for our confidence level and we have to keep going.”
The Islanders have a quick turnaround before their next game, a 7:00 p.m. start at home against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday, Oct. 5.
Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Peter Regin made their Islanders debut … Brock Nelson made his NHL regular season debut, after playing in one game during the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs … Friday marked Michael Grabner’s second two-goal game in his last seven, with the last coming on April 16 vs. Florida … Grabner’s first period goal marked the first time since 2008 (Doug Weight) that a forward scored the first Islanders goal of the season; defensemen had struck first in each of the openers in between … Both teams finished the night 0-for-2 on the power play … Casey Cizikas and Matt Martin co-led all players with three hits apiece, as the Islanders out-hit the Devils 15-13 … The Islanders out-blocked the Devils 14-9, led by Thomas Hickey and Andrew MacDonald, who registered three apiece … The Islanders held the edge in the faceoff circle, winning 28-of-52 draws (54-percent) … Frans Nielsen led the team in faceoff percentage, winning 7-of-11 draws (64-percent) … MacDonald led the Islanders with 24:44 of ice time … 15 different Islanders registered a shot on goal, led by Grabner’s four.
New York Islanders
60 Kevin Poulin
New Jersey Devils
14 Adam Henrique – 19 Travis Zajac – 17 Michael Ryder
29 Ryane Clowe – 26 Patrik Elias – 68 Jaromir Jagr
8 Dainius Zubrus – 21 Andrei Loktionov – 12 Damien Brunner
20 Ryan Carter – 11 Stephen Gionta – 18 Steve Bernier
6 Andy Greene – 5 Adam Larsson
24 Bryce Salvador – 2 Marek Zidlicky
28 Anton Volchenkov – 10 Peter Harrold
30 Martin Brodeur
35 Cory Schneider