The Islanders first game of the 2010-11 season was all heart and grit. The young squad refused to give up after finding themselves trailing 2-0 at the end of the first period. Battling back through the second and third period, Matt Moulson’s goal with 2:39 left in regulation capped the Isles comeback and tied the score at four.
Unfortunately for the Islanders, they played catch-up the entire game, but by the end of regulation, the Islanders had outperformed the Stars and controlled a majority of the play in the final 40 minutes.
“(We gave a) Fantastic performance,” said Islanders goaltender Rick DiPietro. “I’m not sure we would’ve been capable of doing something like this last year. Just goes to show you how we’ve grown and a lot of our young guys stepped up.”
It’s not a secret that the Islanders spent a majority of their off season practicing their special teams. All of their hard work paid off as evidenced by the three of their four goals scored on the Islanders power play.
“We put a big emphasis on our special teams this year,” said Islanders forward Matt Moulson. “A goal here or there last year, we could have had a couple more wins. We put a big emphasis on that. We battled, and I think we just have a different attitude than we had last year. No matter what, we were down today and we still thought we were going to win the game. And we battled right to the end.”
The Stars got the early lead in the first period when sophomore forward James Benn tallied the first goal of the night on the power play at 9:52 with Brad Richards and Steve Ott notching the assists.
Just over two minutes later (11:59), Stars assistant captain Richards earned his second point of the night when Stephane Robidas shot a puck past Islanders goaltender Rick DiPietro. Trevor Daley also tallied an assist.
DiPietro called the goal “horrendous”.
Late in the period, sophomore forward John Tavares was elbowed just inside the Islanders blueline by Stars winger Adam Burish, receiving a minor concussion causing him to miss the rest of the game. He will be evaluated further on Monday.
“He’s arguably our best forward, and John’s a prolific player that brings a lot of offense to our team,” said Islanders captain Doug Weight. “Each day, every team goes through things like this, and I think we responded well. Hopefully he’s back sooner than later. I think he’s doing pretty good. Like I said, anytime you lose anybody, you’ve got to pull the rope a little harder and challenge yourself, and keep the accountability in the room, and we’re going to do that.”
I think we started to get our legs under us after the first, get some of the nerves out. We just continued to say in here that we were going to win this game, and we had to keep coming.- Matt Moulson
After Tavares left the game, the second period started off with a bit more momentum. The players had much more of a jump in their step and were able to control much more of the play down in Dallas’ defensive zone.
“Yeah, I think we started to get our legs under us after the first, get some of the nerves out,” said Moulson. “We just continued to say in here that we were going to win this game, and we had to keep coming. They obviously played yesterday and our goal was to keep coming, keep getting physical, and keep getting in there. And for the most part I think we did a good job of that.”
Shortly after rookie forward Nino Niederreiter went to the penalty box to serve a bench minor for too-many-men on the ice at 3:51 and forward Josh Bailey broke out of the Isles zone on a short-handed breakaway, only to see his shot go wide to the left of Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen.
At 6:15 Stars forward Toby Peterson took a penalty for hooking. Just off the faceoff, defenseman James Wisniewski scored the Islanders first goal of the season at 6:21, firing a one-timer off a pass from Doug Weight. Josh Bailey also assisted.
“He’s a different player,” Islanders head coach Scott Gordon said about captain Doug Weight.
I can’t say that in the two years that he’s been here that I’ve seen anything that I’ve seen so far in exhibition and what we saw tonight… There was a play on the power play that he kept the puck in play by jumping in to the boards. He would not have done that last year, he couldn’t have done that last year. So we’re talking about a different guy that we haven’t seen in the last two years.”
The first Islanders goal really changed the momentum of the game. Only down by one-point, Islanders fans were roaring with excitement as they cheered "Lets go Islanders" and stomped their feet on the Coliseum risers.
At 13:45 Brenden Morrow netted a one-timer off a pass in front of the net from Mike Ribeiro, propelling the Stars to a 3-1 lead. Quickly after the goal, the Stars received back-to-back penalties resulting in a two-man advantage for 1:36 in favor of the Islanders after Nicklas Grossman went to the box for interference at 14:06 and Ott drew a penalty for tripping at 14:31.
Less than a minute into the 5-on-3 advantage, captain Doug Weight scored the Islanders second goal of the game, his second of three points in the Home Opener at the Nassau Coliseum when he fired a shot from the top of the right faceoff circle and it deflected off of a Stars defenseman before squeaking underneath Lehtonen. Weight's goal was assisted by PA Parenteau and James Wisniewski.
“You’re always happy to contribute,” Weight said. “I think coming to camp with a lot of aspirations, I tried to work hard in the offseason. I feel much better than I’ve felt in the last two seasons, so I’m excited about that. There’s a long way to go. It’s an exciting game for a comeback from our team, but we would have loved to have gotten two points.”
Stars captain Brenden Morrow tallied his second goal, fourth for Dallas, at 7:12 of the third period, increasing their lead 4-2.
The Islanders pumped up the pressure and forward Blake Comeau scored the Islanders third goal of the night at 8:45 after the Isles completely controlled the play scoring the team’s only even strength goal of the game. Radek Martinek and Josh Bailey tallied the assists, closing the Islanders gap 4-3.
At 16:17, Stephane Robidas of the Stars went to the box for delay of game after shooting the puck into the crowd. The feeling inside the Coliseum was intense with anticipation, as everyone knew just one more goal would tie up the game and send the teams into overtime. Just then, Matt Moulson shoveled it in at 17:21 with assists by Frans Nielsen and Doug Weight.
The Islanders and Stars headed into an overtime period. While the Islanders kept up the pressure, they couldn’t get more than one shot on the net and the final tally had the Islanders outshoot the Stars 47-22.
Ending the game without an overtime tally, the game went in to a shootout and Stars centerman Mike Ribeiro scored the lone goal, propelling the Stars to a 5-4 overtime victory.
Even though the Stars earned the two points, it didn’t reflect the way the Islanders played the last 45 minutes of the game.
“Anytime you get 45 to 50 shots, you’re doing some good things,” Weight said. “That’s a team that’s disciplined, and they got a lot of talent and they made us pay, but we showed a lot of character in coming back. We don’t accept losing in this room, but we showed a lot of grit in the last 40 minutes, and we’ll take the point and march on Monday and hopefully get our first victory.”
While Weight was kicking off his 19th season, Nino Niederreiter was taking NHL ice for the first time in his career.
“It was incredible,” said Niederreiter, the Islanders youngest rookie in their 38-year history at just 18 years and 31 days. “I was kind of living the dream and it was incredible to be on the ice. I came in for the opening ceremony and they called my name. I was just excited to walk into the arena.”
The Islanders hit the ice for Game 2 on Monday when they host the Rangers at 1 p.m. It will be the first time since the 1995 lockout that the Islanders have played back-to-back home games to open the season.