NEWARK, N.J. – The Islanders came away with the 4-3 win in the shootout. Matt Moulson scored the game-winner in the sixth round of the shootout, Michael Grabner recorded three points (two goals, one assist), and Evgeni Nabokov made 26 saves in the Islander win.
But by no stretch of the imagination was this win a cakewalk for the Isles.
They played from behind most of the game and their play was sloppy for a better part of the contest. A lot of the first and second periods were spent chasing the puck in their own zone and Nabokov was shaky.
The Islanders top line was not as efficient as it usually is and head coach Jack Capuano noted that in his post game press conference.
“Johnny’s line struggled because they didn’t manage the puck real well,” Capuano told reporters. “We talked about turnovers and I thought that line didn’t manage it properly. That’s why they got hemmed in their own zone quite a bit tonight. But again it’s game one and there’s some things we have to do better, but there were some things that we did well.”
Making up for the lack of production from the top line was Grabner and his line mates. Grabner scored the Islanders first two goals of the season and had a hand in the third goal put home by Frans Nielsen.
Grabner was flying around the ice all night long and was the Isles best player the through the entire game. Despite the fact everyone knows about Grabner’s speed he was still able to get a lot of open ice. He was one of the few bright spots for the Islanders early on in the game
” I’m just trying to get to open ice, and obviously the puck has to find its’ way there too,” Grabner said after the game. “They made some great plays where I can use my speed and I could capitalize on my chances. It’s worked pretty good today.”
His line overall was the best of the night. The chemistry he and Nielsen displayed, especially during Nielsen’s goal, was a big since the Isles top line didn’t have the strongest of games.
Both Brock Neslon and Matt Donovan had strong games in the season opener. Both players saw upwards of 20 minutes of action and Donovan even got time on the power play.
Donovan also registered his first career NHL point.
“I’ve been waiting a while for that one,” Donovan said about the milestone. “It felt good, it feels good right now and I just have to get geared up for tomorrow night.”
Both players seemed to fit in well and are adjusting to the NHL’s speed and intensity. There were some small mistakes, like Nelson taking a bad retaliatory penalty in the third period and one instance where a Devil was able to blow by Donovan. But overall it was a strong showing for both rookies.
On display against New Jersey was how good Evgeni Nabokov can be and how shaky he can be, all in one game.
Nabokov made 26 saves in the win, sometimes doing so in spectacular fashion. Other times not so much. During the first two periods Nabokov looked like he was fighting the puck and seemed a step or two off. Though when it mattered most Nabokov found his rhythm.
In the third Nabokov made several big stops and stoned all six Devil players in the shootout.
“He played phenomenal tonight,” Moulson said of Nabokov’s play. “First shift through the shootout. If we’re going to win games you need him to play big just like he did last year. He played great again tonight.”
Post Game Quotes
Grabner on the Frans Nielsen goal: “We had a bit of a quick break there. It was a great play by Donovan to move the puck and then we had a short three-on-two there and obviously Frans made a great play to score from that angle. Overall it was a pretty good play from our zone out.”
Grabner on what the team takes away from Friday’s win: ” Take away that we won. We did some good stuff out there. There is obviously stuff we have to work on, D-zone, those little things, but it’s the first game. I think we’re pretty confident we can clean it up pretty quick.”
Nabokov on the shootout: “Sometimes it’s part of the luck. Sometimes they couldn’t raise the puck. Sometimes I read them and I knew what they were going to do. So luck is a big part of the shootout, but I was trying to follow the puck and make sure my gaps were good.”
The Isles have a quick turnaround with the Blue Jackets Saturday at the Coliseum. With all the pre-game festivities going on, expect face-off at 7:14 or so tonight.