Jeff Tambellini and Frans Nielsen scored for the Islanders in a shootout and started 2010 with a bang, lifting them to a 6-5 shootout victory over the Atlanta Thrashers at the Nassau Coliseum.
In what was a literal shootout for 65 minutes, it seemed only fitting that both teams would need a shootout to decide their game.
"It was a high scoring game," Josh Bailey said. "It was real exciting obviously. We would've liked to keep the extra point away from them but were happy with the win."
Tambellini fired a high wrist shot right above the hashmarks over the right shoulder of Atlanta goaltender Johan Hedberg to put the Islanders up first. After Ilya Kovalchuk missed Atlanta's first attempt, Nielsen gave the Islanders a two goal lead with his patented backhand deke over Hedberg to give the Islanders a 2-0 advantage.
Slava Kozlov pulled Atlanta within one goal, and after Rob Schremp missed on his attempt, Rich Peverley wasn't able to even things up for Atlanta, giving the Islanders the victory.
With guys like Tambellini, Nielsen and Schremp at the Islanders arsenal in the shootout, Matt Moulson feels like his team can pull through with the victory every time.
"I think with Schrempy, Tamby and Nielsen, they're going to score every single time," Moulson said. "It was probably the first one Schremp's missed in a while...they're all good on breakaways. Tamby's got a tremendous shot, I dont know if anyone can save that one."
Moulson gave the Islanders the lead 7:13 into the first period with his 16th goal of the season, doing what he does best, parking himself in his usual position right in front of the net.
Just as Maxim Afinogenov was exiting the penalty box, Schremp threw the puck on net towards Hedberg. As the puck deflected off his pads, Moulson pounced on the loose rebound and shoved it across the goal line for the Islanders 1-0 lead.
The goal should come as a relief for Moulson, as it was his first in 11 games.
"I was mad I got pushed in the net after the goal because I was ready for a big celebration," Moulson joked after the game.
Jon Sim put the Islanders ahead by two goals midway through the first period, with his sixth goal of the season. However, Sim's goal would not be possible if it werent for a spectacular pass by Josh Bailey.
Bailey cut down the right side of the ice into the Atlanta zone, defended by Atlanta's Christoph Schubert and Anssi Salmela. As the Atlanta defensemen pressured Bailey more, he noticed Sim streaking down the middle of the ice. Bailey then faked the shot, curled and fed Sim with a behind the back pass, who proceeded to one-time it past Hedberg to give the Islanders a 2-0 lead.
Richard Park gave the Isles a three-goal advantage with 2:06 left in the first period with his third goal of the season. As Hedberg lunged to cover a loose puck following a Tambelllini shot, Park jumped in and lifted the biscuit over the sprawled Atlanta netminder to give the Islanders a 3-0 lead.
"The first period was an exceptional period by us," Islanders Head Coach Scott Gordon said. "We did a lot of right things."
The second period would see the Islanders three-goal lead evaporate into a one goal lead, as six goals were scored overall - including four by the Thrashers.
Atlanta's Maxim Afinogenov cut the Islanders lead to two goals at 3-1 just 50 seconds into the second period. The Atlanta winger broke into the Isles zone and stopped short just at the top of the faceoff circle. Afinogenov stopped short and fired a wrist shot off the arm of Islanders goaltender Dwayne Roloson and behind him to put Atlanta on the board with his 14th goal of the season.
Trent Hunter would answer back quickly as he gave the Isles their three-goal lead right back just 39 seconds later with his eighth goal of the season. Hunter took a centering pass from Brendan Witt deep in the Atlanta zone by the hashmarks. Hunter gathered the pass, turned to face Hedberg and fired a wrist shot through the legs of the Atlanta goaltender to give the Islanders a 4-1 lead.
Afinogenov would be at it again, scoring his second goal of the game 4:44 into the middle frame to bring Atlanta's deficit to 4-2. Tobias Enstrom would lead a two-on-one rush with Afinogenov with Andy Sutton as the lone Islanders defenseman back. Enstrom then fed it off over to Afinogenov, who one-timed the pass by a sliding Roloson to cut the Islanders lead to two goals for the second time in the period.
Bailey retook the Islanders three-goal lead midway through the second period with his ninth goal of the season. Bailey churned into the Atlanta zone and attempted to dish a centering pass to Blake Comeau. However, the pass deflected off Zach Bogosian and headed towards the Atlanta net. Bailey tried to bank the puck down in mid-air, but missed. The puck then banked off the post and off of Hedberg's skate and over the goal line to increase the Islanders lead to 5-2.
The goal was taken to a formal video review afterwards to check if Bailey touched the puck, however the goal stood regardless.
"I knew they were going to count it, because I knew i didn't touch it, I just got a good bounce," Bailey said. "Well take it."
Nik Antropov and Rich Peverly would quickly answer back just ten seconds later with two goals in 2:48 for the Thrashers to cut the Islanders lead to 5-4 in the second period.
"In the second period, we were doing things well offensively, but what got away from us was our effort in the back-check," Gordon said.
Kovalchuk tied the game up for Atlanta 11:23 into the third period on the power play with his 25th goal of the season. With Tambellini in the penalty box serving an interference minor, Kovalchuk one-timed a Enstrom pass past Roloson to bring the Thrashers even with the Islanders at 5-5.
Three Stars of the Game:
1. Josh Bailey, NYI: Goal and assist. 2. Maxim Afinogenov, ATL: Two goals, two assists, four points. 3. Ilya Kovalchuk, ATL: Goal, three assists, four points.
Slapshots: Islanders outshot Atlanta, 37-28...Trent Hunterled all Islanders with 8 shots on goal...Atlanta was 1-5 on the power play, while the Islanders were unsuccessful on five man advantages...Rob Schremp went a perfect 6-6 in faceoffs...Freddy Meyer (healthy) and Tim Jackman (broken orbital bone) are the Islanders scratches...This is the third meeting of the season between the two teams, with the Islanders taking the first two games over the Thrashers...Islanders hold an all-time record of 21-13-4 against the Thrashers.