On a night that Islanders’ goalie Dwayne Roloson was undoubtedly looking forward to because it was his first against his former team, the Edmonton Oilers, an unsuspecting hero stole the show. Islanders’ defenseman Brendan Witt scored his first two goals of the season as Islanders won their fourth game in a row 3-1, improving their record to 5-4-5.
Witt gave the Islanders a 2-1 lead at 2:32 of the second period when a seemingly harmless shot from outside of the circle to the left of Oilers goalie Nikolai Khabibulin beat him low to the glove side. This was Witt’s first goal of the season, but his offensive output would not stop there.
Witt, known as a stay-at-home defenseman hadn’t scored since Jan. 22, 2008 against the Carolina Hurricanes and has never scored more than three goals in one season, scored again at 12:35 of the second period with a wrist shot from the blue-line. Khabibulin was partially screened on Witt’s second goal of the game by Jeff Tambellini who also got an assist on the play along with Weight.
“All I was really trying to do was get the puck at the net,” Witt said. “I got fortunate on the first one because it caught Khabibulin by surprise because I don’t think he was ready and on the second one I just put the puck at the net and we had guys crashing.”
Islanders’ head coach Scott Gordon said, “I’m going to put him in the shootout,” when asked what he thought of Witt’s game. “He’s had a couple of good shots from the point this season and it was good to see him find the back of the net.”
Turning his focus to the positives of the game, Gordon said he has been impressed by the Islanders play during the current four-game winning streak.
“It feels good,” Gordon said. “We talked before the game about being able to handle success and how to handle it. We talked about what gives you success and not to stray from it.”
Roloson downplayed the personal importance of this game for him and said that every win is just as important. Roloson figured that the shooters didn’t have an advantage on him or the other way around, despite their familiarity level.
“They know my tendencies too,” Roloson said of his ex teammates. “So, it’s a win-win for both sides. This is just another victory, it doesn’t matter who we play. We won the game and that’s all that matters to me.”
The Coliseum crowd cheered as Witt was put on the ice with 46.3 seconds left when Khabibulin was pulled. He made one attempt at the open net but the puck sailed wide as he shot for his first career hat-trick.
“It’s a game of hockey,” Roloson said. “So any time the puck isn’t in your end, they aren’t going to score. They have a dynamic line with (Ales) Hemsky (Shawn) Horcoff and (Dustin) Penner, who are amazing hockey players, so the more we keep them out of our end, the better.”
Roloson, had a pretty good night himself and kept the Oilers, who had been held scoreless in their last seven-plus periods coming into this game, to just one first period goal. He would wind up turning aside 22 of the 23 Edmonton shots he faced.
Oilers’ captain, Ethan Moreau, gave the Oilers a 1-0 lead when he threw a backhanded pass in front of the net, which hit an Islander defenseman’s leg and past Roloson’s right pad. Moreau’s goal at 11:02 of the first period was assisted by Zack Stortini and Andrew Cogliano. The goal was Moreau’s second of the season and his first since Oct. 8 when he scored against the Calgary Flames in a 4-3 Edmonton loss.
John Tavares tied the game at one apiece at 14:51 of the first, giving him the NHL’s rookie goal scoring lead with five. Doug Weight’s tenacious fore-checking caused the Oilers’ defense pairing of Denis Grebeshkov and Taylor Chorney to give up the puck behind the Edmonton net. Matt Moulson, the third member of that line, nabbed the loose puck and fed Tavares, who beat Khabibulin with a wrist shot on the glove side from the slot.