Going into Sunday's matinee with the New Jersey Devils, the New York Islanders young guns were foreshadowing a 'statement game'. That's precisely what it was. The goaltenders for both teams, Al Montoya and Martin Brodeur, made show-stopping saves through 65 minutes and forced six rounds in the shootout. It was Brian Rolston's shot that gave the Devils the 3-2 win at Nassau Coliseum.
Despite the outcome, the game was still something the team should be proud of.
"It was definitely positive," Islanders forward PA Parenteau said. "I think these guys (the Devils) were 19-2-2 in the last 23 games, so I think we gave that a really good game. We played as hard as we could and we didn't give them much. (Montoya) played well. We were as patient as we should be against these guys. As far as a statement, I think it was a positive one."
In the shootout, Frans Nielsen was the first shooter and was also the only Islander to score. Ilya Kovalchuk tied it up, and then in the sixth round, Rolston held the puck, waited for Montoya to commit and snuck the puck past Montoya low blocker side for the game-winning goal.
"This is the direction we are going," Montoya said. "We want to keep going this way. It's about leaving our best effort on the ice every night and I think we played a pretty good game tonight. We have to be happy with ourselves."
Once again, Montoya played well. He made 27 saves through regulation.
"(Montoya) has done everything you can ask of your goalie and more," Islanders forward Josh Bailey said. "I think he's given us a chance to win every game. (It's) too bad we didn't pull one out for him there. He's been our first star for almost every game."
Goaltender Al Montoya #35 and Andrew MacDonald #47 of the New York Islanders defend the net against Ilya Kovalchuk #17 of the New Jersey Devils on March 6, 2011 at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Mike Stobe/NHLI via Getty Images)
Throughout the game, scoring opportunities were limited for both teams. The chances the Isles did have were strong and they capitalized at key moments. Blake Comeau's third period goal tied the score at two. With 3:43 remaining in regulation, he recovered the puck in the slot and found the wide open area, beating Brodeur with a wrist shot blocker side.
"I was excited to score, obviously, to tie it up and send it into overtime," Comeau said. "It was a good feeling."
Kovalchuk gave the Devils a 2-1 lead at 2:52 in the third period, but Islanders interim head coach Jack Capuano thought his young defensemen played a strong game and did a good job of limiting the superstar's opportunities.
"He had his chances for sure," Capuano said. "He's a world-class player. Again, I thought Nielsen's line and Andrew (MacDonald) and Travis (Hamonic) did a real good job.
The Devils played a 200-foot game, clearing the puck every opportunity they could and held the Islanders to 18 shots through regulation.
"They sit back in the neutral zone," Comeau said. "They don't forecheck real hard. We had possession, so we had to do a good job of pushing the pace up, chipping it behind their D. Sometimes it's tough how good Brodeur plays the puck, but we stuck with our game plan and we knew it wasn't going to come easy, but I thought the guys did a good job at battling and we did get the one point."
And after a scoreless first period, the Devils took a 1-0 lead as Rolston scored a power play goal at 4:09 of the second. But that same period (17:06), Bailey gathered a Parenteau rebound to score a power play goal and even the score at one.
"I think we're happy with the way we played," Bailey said. "We would have liked to get some more shots, but that's the type of game (the Devils) play. They don't really let you get too much offensively. You just have to stay positive and keep trying to get pucks in deep and away from Brodeur and pound their (defense). I think when we made that happen, we had success."
Even though the team didn't take home two points, Capuano was happy with the team's performance.
"It's one of those games with the way it was going, (there was a) power play goal for each team and a 5-on-5 goal for each team," Capauno said. "There weren't many chances, but both goalies played well."