It seemed only fitting that the Islanders first overall draft choice would play a key role in delivering the Islanders first win of the season.
John Tavares fired a wrist shot over Carolina goaltender Cam Ward's right shoulder to give the Isles a 4-3 shootout victory over the Hurricanes at the Nassau Coliseum.
After an exciting overtime period which saw six shots combined from both teams, the Islanders went a perfect three-for-three in the shootout thanks to efforts from Jeff Tambellini, Frans Nielsen, and Tavares.
"I was just trying to think back when I was a kid and theres no pressure and just having fun with it," said Tavares. "Originally I wanted to do what Fransie (Nielsen) did and try to go to my backhand, but he made a good move. I just tried to add a little more of an element and get it to my forehand."
Matt Moulson opened the scoring and put the Islanders on the board first with his team-leading fifth goal of the season 8:11 in the first period. The play was initiated by defenseman Andy Sutton, who drove hard into the Carolina zone behind the goal line. Sutton dished the puck over to a waiting Moulson who one-timed the puck past Ward for the 1-0 lead.
Tensions started to flare late in the first period s Brendan Witt (6'2", 223 lbs.) and Carolina's Scott Walker (5'10", 196 lbs.) dropped the gloves right in front of Islanders goaltender Dwayne Roloson. Both men exchanged fisticuffs for well over a minute before Walker knocked Witt off-balance and both men fell to the ice.
Carolina struck first in the second period and tied things up at the 5:34 mark on a Scott Cullen power play goal. With Blake Comeau in the box for interference, Cullen skated deep into the Isles zone and threw the puck to the middle of the ice.
Unfortunately for the Isles, the puck deflected off the skate of Jack Hillen and through Roloson's legs to even things up at 1-1.
With the score tied at one apiece, Tim Jackman helped the Islanders retake their one-goal lead at the 10:32 mark of the middle frame. The play was started when Nate Thompson attempted to wrap the puck around the Carolina net.
As the puck hit off a Hurricane defensemans skate and caromed to the middle of the ice, Jackman backhanded a shot that deflected off another Hurricane and fluttered over Ward and found its way in the back of the net for the 2-1 Islanders lead.
Just 49 seconds later, the Islanders doubled their lead on some nifty hand-eye coordination by Andy Sutton. Jack Hillen sent a wrist shot towards the Carolina net, which Andy Sutton batted out of mid air past Ward. After a formal video review of the play, Sutton's goal stood for his second of the season and a 3-1 Islanders lead.
It was Sutton's first multi-point game since November 29, 2008.
"I've felt better every game so far this year," said Sutton."I missed a lot of time two and a half to three seasons. I've been building slowly and I think its the best I've felt so far this season."
Islanders Head Coach Scott Gordon stressed Sutton's importance to the team following the victory.
"Andy is starting to get up to speed after having so much time off in the last two seasons," Gordon said. "He's a big guy for us, not just in a size-sense, but he's a guy that can eat minutes as a defenseman and take up a lot of space, and blocks a lot of shots."
Eric Staal cut the Islanders lead in half to 3-2 with 5:59 left in the third period for his third goal of the season. Staal took advantage of a fallen Roloson, taking a Ray Whitney pass and firing a slap shot into the empty cage.
Jussi Jokinen tied the game up for Carolina just 1:02 later for his third goal of the season pull the Hurricanes even, 3-3. Jokinen one timed a Joni Pitkanen pass through Roloson to tie things up.
Three Stars of the Game: 1. Andy Sutton, NYI: Goal, assist, 5 hits 2. John Tavares, NYI: Shootout winner, 6 shots 3. Stephane Yelle, CAR
Slapshots: Carolina outshot the Islanders 38-29...Mark Streit led all Islanders with 27:07 of ice time...John Tavares led all Islanders with 6 shots on goal...Jack Hillen, Frans Nielsen, and Jeff Tambellini were the only Islanders that did not register an official shot during the three periods plus overtime...Bruno Gervais, Rob Schremp, and Jon Sim were the Islanders scratches...Carolina left-winger Ray Whitney played in his 1,000th career NHL game
Goaltenders 30 Cam Ward
49 Michael Leighton
77 Joe Corvo - 7 Niclas Wallin
25 Joni Pitkanen - 6 Tim Gleason
41 Andrew Alberts - 4 Aaron Ward
36 Jussi Jokinen - 17 Rod BrindAmour - 14 Sergei Samsonov
13 Ray Whitney - 12 Eric Staal - 15 Tuomo Ruutu
24 Scott Walker - 8 Matt Cullen - 59 Chad LaRose
38 Tim Conboy - 18 Stephane Yelle - 29 Tom Kostopolous
1 - 0 NYI
1 - 1 Tie
2 - 1 NYI
3 - 1 NYI