New York Hockey: New York Islanders

Rangers recover, rally past Islanders

October, 29, 2013
10/29/13
11:09
PM ET


NEW YORK -- Let’s not go calling the Rangers an offensive juggernaut just yet, but the Blueshirts recovered from a blanking Monday night to notch a trio of goals and edge the Islanders 3-2 in a come-from-behind win Tuesday night at Nassau Coliseum.

And if Tuesday’s match was a glimpse into what the team can do with a somewhat-healthy roster, there is still hope for the team to live up to its preseason expectations.

The return of Carl Hagelin proved vital to a Rangers squad toiling at the bottom of the Eastern Conference. The 25-year-old winger, who missed the first ten games of the season with a shoulder injury, gave New York a totally different speed element than they had to start the year.

He created turnovers, chased down pucks and helped generate offense in his season debut, skating on a line with veteran center Brad Richards and Benoit Pouliot.

“He’s just so good [at] forcing turnovers, obviously, but down low -- that was just his first night -- but we had so much more zone time down low and beneath the hashmarks and controlling it because he’s so good at darting into the holes,” Richards said. “It’s good for me, too, to have him back ... it was fun.”

Hagelin assisted on Pouliot’s game-winner with 6:14 to play in the third period and was happy to contribute after a long couple of weeks on the long-term injured reserve list.

“It’s so exciting to get back,” Hagelin said. “[I] had good energy. We were able to create some chances for the team and I’m just glad we got the 'W.'"

[+] EnlargeBenoit Pouliot
Bruce Bennett/Getty ImagesBenoit Pouliot, left, netted the game-winning goal in the Rangers' 3-2 victory over the Isles on Tuesday.
It wasn’t just Hagelin’s line that was productive for the Rangers. The troupe of Chris Kreider, Derek Stepan and Mats Zuccarello set the tone in the first period, swarming goaltender Evgeni Nabokov and hemming the Islanders into their own end.

Giving the Rangers their first power-play goal of the night, Kreider corralled a puck with his back to the net, spun and swept it past Nabokov for a 1-0 lead at 12:30.

Kreider’s reaction was a mixture of elation and relief when he tallied his first goal of the season. The jubilant celebration was a stark contrast from the dejected sigh he offered Monday night when recalling an open net that he failed to score on after being robbed by Peter Budaj.

“Those are the ones you always remember, and I think you’re better for it,” Kreider said, smiling now in his postgame comments. “I’m not going to get discouraged about that.”

The Rangers’ execution on the power play was also a marked improvement. Thwarted on all five opportunities in Monday night’s frustration fest versus Budaj and the Habs, the unit went 2-for-4 Tuesday. Their second power-play marker, which came on a blast from defenseman Ryan McDonagh, erased a 2-1 Islanders lead to knot the score 4:59 into the first period.

What was the difference from one night prior?

“Execution,” said coach Alain Vigneault. “They executed. They wanted the puck. They shot the puck. They were a lot crisper.”

It was Vigneault’s choice to give the nod to backup netminder Cam Talbot -- providing starter Henrik Lundqvist the night off rather than have him play in back-to-back games -- and the 26-year-old again proved himself capable.

Talbot, who has won two of his three starts this season, stopped 22 of 24 shots.

The two points gained in Tuesday’s visit to Long Island were critical considering the Rangers' position heading into the match. A mere point ahead of the beleaguered Buffalo Sabres before Tuesday’s win, the Rangers moved to 13th place in the Eastern Conference. More importantly, they are now only three points back from a playoff spot with a game in hand.

“It’s good for everyone. After last night, we came in here, ready to play and that’s exactly what we did,” Pouliot said.

Rapid Reaction: Rangers 3, Islanders 2

October, 29, 2013
10/29/13
9:45
PM ET
What it means: Blanked for the third time this season Tuesday night, the Rangers finally found some offense in their first match of the season against the division rival New York Islanders. The Blueshirts rallied from a 2-1 deficit to top the Isles 3-2 at Nassau Coliseum thanks to Benoit Pouliot's game-winner in the third period. The outburst doubled the team’s goals per game average and provided them with a critical two points. The Rangers improved to 4-7-0 while the Islanders fell below .500 at 4-5-3 in what was supposed to be Thomas Vanek's grand debut as an Islander.

Kreider breaks through: Kreider’s boisterous goal celebration was a stark contrast from the scene one night prior, when he could only shake his head at the open net he saw before being robbed by Habs netminder Peter Budaj in the team’s 2-0 shutout loss to Montreal. Kreider corralled a rebound, spun and swept the puck past Evgeni Nabokov for a 1-0 Rangers lead and his first goal of the season.

Some good looks: The best chances the Rangers had Tuesday night were generated from Kreider’s line. Along with linemates Derek Stepan and Mats Zuccarello, the trio used their speed to pressure the Islanders’ defense and generate some quality looks against Nabokov.

Charged up: Stopped in five power-play opportunities Monday night, the Rangers’ specialty teams unit showed signs of life Tuesday. The Blueshirts tallied twice with the man advantage; Ryan McDonagh’s third-period blast tied the game at 2 at 4:59.

Another injury: Just as the Rangers get Carl Hagelin back from a shoulder injury, they lost another forward in Tuesday’s match. Veteran center Dominic Moore, also a key cog for the team’s penalty-killing unit, left the game with an upper-body injury and did not return. Moore played 4:23 in the first period. The Rangers are already hobbled with injuries to captain Ryan Callahan (thumb) and Rick Nash (concussion). Neither player is expected to return soon.

New kids on the block: Though it was supposed to be Vanek’s night as the two-time, 40-goal scorer made his Islanders debut, it was another pair of newcomers who notched the first pair of goals against the Rangers. Cal Clutterbuck scored his first as an Islander, beating Cam Talbot top shelf off a right-wing rush in the second period. Fellow offseason acquisition Peter Regin was credited with the team’s second-period goal with less than a minute in the frame, though it actually bounced off Talbot’s glove and then Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi.

W2W4: Islanders vs. Rangers

October, 29, 2013
10/29/13
3:05
PM ET
At a glance: Tuesday marks newly acquired Thomas Vanek's first game as a New York Islander and the two-time 40-goal scorer will be thrown right into the fire with a rivalry clash against the New York Rangers. The Rangers head to Nassau Coliseum having been blanked by the Montreal Canadiens on Monday night -- the third shutout loss of the season for the Rangers. Neither the Islanders nor the Rangers have enjoyed the start they expected. GM Garth Snow made a splash Sunday night, shipping core member Matt Moulson and two picks to Buffalo in exchange for Vanek as an attempt to shake things up for his middling club. The Rangers' return home to Madison Square Garden on Monday did not yield the results they hoped, either. The anemic loss dropped them to 3-7-0 on the season, which leaves them in 15th place in the Eastern Conference just one point ahead of the lowly Buffalo Sabres.

Vanek debut: Less than two days after being traded from Buffalo, Vanek will wear a different team's sweater for the first time in his NHL career. Isles fans are keen to see what sort of chemistry he can forge with superstar center John Tavares, who lost his longtime linemate in the Moulson deal. The success of the deal will likely hinge on whether Vanek, a pending unrestricted free agent, decides to re-sign with the Islanders, so the campaign to sell him on the merits of his new club begins Tuesday. The pressure's on for Vanek, too, considering that his counterpart in the trade was impressive in his Sabres debut. Moulson scored two goals in Buffalo's 4-3 loss to the Dallas Stars.

Help on the way: The Rangers are in dire need of some help considering their injury-plagued lineup and it appears they will get that Tuesday, when Carl Hagelin is eligible to come off the long-term injured list. Hagelin, who had surgery on his left shoulder this summer, adds offensive skill and a much-needed speed dimension to a Rangers squad struggling for offense. The Rangers are last in the league with a mere 1.50 goals per game.

A look at the numbers: Now that each team has 10 or more games under their belts, let's take a gander at some advanced stats that could be telling. According to HockeyAnalysis.com, the Rangers' middling Corsi percentage -- 49.0 percent -- and Fenwick percentage -- 48.6 percent -- suggests that they might not be as bad as their record implies. Their PDO, a stat designed to predict regression (and the opposite), also indicates they could be on the upswing. Meanwhile, the Islanders are in the bottom four teams for both Corsi and Fenwick rating, despite the fact that they have the better record at 4-4-3.

Talbot in net: Rangers backup goaltender Cam Talbot is slated to get the start Tuesday, according to the reports from Tuesday's morning skates. That means Rangers coach Alain Vigneault opted to give starter Henrik Lundqvist -- who returned Monday after missing two games with an unspecified injury -- the night off as opposed to using him in back-to-back nights.

Moulson-Vanek trade is a gamble for Isles

October, 28, 2013
10/28/13
2:05
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It'll take time for the dust to settle on Sunday night's stunner of a trade -- and it would be unfair to assess the winners and losers of the deal at this point -- but there was a fair amount of criticism for the Islanders after general manager Garth Snow shipped Matt Moulson and a pair of picks to Buffalo in exchange for Thomas Vanek.

Yes, the Isles acquired a two-time 40-goal scorer who has the potential to make some magic with star center John Tavares, but they made a significant gamble to do so.

Thomas Vanek #26 of the Buffalo Sabres
Jen Fuller/Getty ImagesSabres co-captain Thomas Vanek, a two-time 40-goal scorer, was traded to the Islanders on Sunday night.
If Vanek and Tavares enjoy the type of chemistry Snow hopes and expects, that'll be a start, but the real barometer of whether the deal was worthwhile will depend on whether Vanek decides to re-sign.

Considering the 29-year-old winger is slated to become an unrestricted free agent this July, he could turn out to be nothing more than a very high-priced rental. It's also worth pointing out that there has been significant speculation that Vanek could land with the Minnesota Wild this summer -- a notion that should not be discounted given his ties to the area.

Vanek is skating on a line with Tavares and Kyle Okposo on Monday, but what sort of success will they have together? Vanek's numbers speak for themselves, which is why Snow viewed the former University of Minnesota standout as an offensive upgrade, but it's hard to deny the chemistry forged between Moulson and Tavares in their four years together on Long Island.

Here's where things will be interesting to watch.

I'm not suggesting that Snow should pander to his star player, and Tavares isn't the type of person to demand that treatment, either. However, I do think there needs to be consideration given to the fact that Moulson is, for all intents and purposes, Tavares' comfort blanket both on and off the ice. They are best friends and linemates who have rarely played apart. Heck, Tavares is even the godfather to Moulson's 14-month-old daughter, Mila. Do you risk upsetting your franchise player and disrupting a very productive tandem for a player who may be around for less than a season?

That's the chance Snow took, and he'll have to stand behind that should it not pan out.

Also, know this:

Moulson was not unhappy in Long Island. To the contrary, he was surprised to hear about the trade and upset to leave his teammates. He had plans to be a part of the team's future; he did not want out.

The Islanders and Moulson's camp did not have any substantive talks before the trade, but that doesn't mean it had become a toxic situation. Not by a long shot. Moulson was in line for a significant pay raise, but he also knew that he would not be making more in annual average value than Tavares should a long-term deal been worked out.

Now, he's out of town before such talks even transpired.

The Isles rolled the dice. Maybe it pays off, maybe it does not. Until then, they parted with a core, character guy whose chemistry with the team's star player was a known commodity. They did so at a high price and a high risk.

Is that criticism deserved? You bet.

ESPN.com's Craig Custance also offered his take here. A very good read with strong insight and analysis.

DiPietro gets a shot with Canes' AHL club

October, 27, 2013
10/27/13
6:14
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The door to the NHL hasn’t opened wide for former No. 1 draft pick Rick DiPietro, but a professional tryout by the Carolina Hurricanes with their American Hockey League affiliate in Charlotte opens it a crack, and that’s a crack that didn’t exist last week.

"When he’s healthy and he’s into it, he can stop pucks," Carolina GM Jim Rutherford told ESPN.com on Sunday. "That’s what we’re hoping he can do."

DiPietro, a free agent after being bought out of the remaining eight years of his 15-year, $67.5 million deal by the New York Islanders in the offseason, had been working out with the Boston College hockey team when Rutherford inquired about his availability.

Rutherford hopes DiPietro will start two games for the Charlotte Checkers on Wednesday and Thursday, and then they’ll assess their options. The Hurricanes have been laid low by injuries to their top two goaltenders, Cam Ward, who is out for at least a month with a lower-body injury, and backup Anton Khudobin, who has been out for more than two weeks with what is believed to be a foot injury. Khudobin, who has been excellent for the Hurricanes, could take shots Monday, but his return timetable remains cloudy -- hence the interest in DiPietro.

The Hurricanes, tied for second with the Islanders in the mediocre Metropolitan Division with a 4-4-3 record, have been relying on Justin Peters, who has little NHL experience.

"But what happens if he goes down?" Rutherford asked.

Although the team examined a number of goaltending options, including a number of former NHL netminders currently without work, Rutherford liked the idea of seeing what DiPietro could do.

The veteran GM said he met DiPietro, 32, during last season’s contract talks and liked what he saw in DiPietro’s personality and attitude. The two main obstacles that have dogged DiPietro in recent years -- his health and his monster contract that had become, in the end, a kind of albatross -- are both gone, Rutherford noted.

"He's got a lot of things behind him," Rutherford said. Now, he’s back to square one. “It’s a very good opportunity for him,” Rutherford added, even if DiPietro doesn't end up signing with the Hurricanes.

DiPietro played only three games for the Islanders last season, losing all three before being put on waivers and sent to the team’s AHL affiliate in Bridgeport, where he played 18 games. Since 2008-09, DiPietro has played only 50 NHL games.

Spano: 'I'd do it again'

October, 22, 2013
10/22/13
10:27
PM ET
If you missed it on Tuesday night, ESPN's 30 for 30 film series aired a 90-minute documentary about the epic scam pulled by John Spano.

A brief synopsis: Spano lied about his finances in order to buy the Islanders in the mid-1990s, falsifying documents and greatly exaggerating his net worth to the league and the organization. Without the cash to make the payments, Spano resorted to lie after lie to delay the inevitable. Eventually, he went to prison for bank fraud, mail fraud and wire fraud after being exposed as a grand-scale con artist.

All in all, an incredible story and well-done documentary.

Some highlights:

-- Easily the best part of the film was the enmity between Spano and former Isles coach and general manager Mike Milbury. Spano claims he fired Milbury. Milbury said Spano is "full of s---." Milbury, never one to shy away from colorful language, goes on to call Spano an "a--h---" and "moody as hell."

Meanwhile, Spano painted Milbury as a megalomaniac interested in only one thing: "Mike Milbury."

-- At the end of the film, Spano actually admitted he'd do it again, even after getting emotional about the toll it took on his parents and how his actions hurt other people. He truly seems to believe, even now, that he could've pulled it off.

"It was a fulfillment of a dream, even if it was for a short time."

-- Favorite scene? The dramatic re-enactment of New York Daily News beat writer Pete Botte's late-night, clandestine meeting with Spano at the St. Regis hotel in NYC. Botte said Spano claimed his benefactor was a wealthy, well-connected mobster.

-- Great insight from former Islanders beat writers Botte, John Valenti and Alan Hahn. They provided good context about the climate around the team at the time and the utter craziness of the story.

Overall, a definite must-watch for Isles fans, though I could've done without director Kevin Connolly's shot at the end of him announcing draft pick Brock Nelson a few years back. Clearly a labor of love for Connolly, a die-hard Isles fan, but that was unnecessary.

'Big Shot' premieres Tuesday at 8 pm ET

October, 22, 2013
10/22/13
5:21
PM ET
Any Islanders fan who remembers "The Gong Show" that was the John Spano era in team lore will want to tune in to ESPN at 8 ET tonight.

That's when "Big Shot" will premiere as one of 30 for 30's film series for ESPN. The documentary, a labor of love for director/diehard Isles fan/former "Entourage" actor Kevin Connolly, details the epic scam pulled by Spano. Spano, a former Dallas businessman, owned the Isles for a brief time in the mid-1990s before he was exposed as a con artist who didn't have the funds to purchase the team.

He was later investigated and arrested on different charges, after which he spent several years in prison.

For more about one of the franchise's most bizarre sagas, tune in at 8 p.m. ET. To learn more, check out the trailer here.

Torts won't 'criticize' Rangers' struggles

October, 22, 2013
10/22/13
1:50
PM ET
UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- In his first trip back to New York since getting the ax from the New York Rangers last spring, John Tortorella refused to take the bait when asked about his former team’s struggles.

The Rangers, who dismissed Tortorella after the team’s second-round exit from the playoffs, have stumbled to a 2-5-0 start this season under new coach Alain Vigneault. Tortorella and Vigneault traded places, with the former taking the head-coaching job in Vancouver.

“I don’t work there anymore and I’m certainly not going to criticize. I know nothing about what’s going on with the club. That’s not fair to anybody,” Tortorella said during the Vancouver Canucks' morning skate Tuesday on Long Island.

Tortorella’s firing wasn’t exactly a surprising one -- his harsh, tough-love personality had worn thin among his charges -- but he did have success during his time coaching in New York.

Prior to last year’s playoff appearance, Tortorella led the Rangers to the Eastern Conference finals.

Tortorella also cultivated a strong, hardworking identity for the Blueshirts, one that hasn’t been apparent in the opening weeks of this season.

The Rangers may not miss his daily barking, but they are no longer reaping the benefits of a stingy, defense-minded system that allowed them to grind teams down and rack up wins.

Meanwhile, Tortorella’s new team in Vancouver hasn’t taken the Western Conference by storm, either. The Canucks are 5-4-1 heading into Tuesday night’s game against the Islanders.

Like the good old days in New York, Tortorella was clipped in his response to questions about any other team but his own. He did offer some nice words about his former team, however.

“I’m not getting involved in that,” he said. “I’ll tell you something: I loved working for the Rangers. I love everything about the area.”

Visnovsky placed on IR

October, 21, 2013
10/21/13
5:50
PM ET
The Islanders will be without Lubomir Visnovsky for at least a week, as the team placed the veteran defenseman on injured reserve with a concussion retroactive to October 19.

The 37-year-old blue-liner was injured by an incidental hit to the head during the first period of the team's 4-3 loss to Carolina on Saturday.

The team also announced the recall of Brock Nelson after loaning him to play for Bridgeport (AHL) Sunday.

Visnovsky injured in Isles loss

October, 20, 2013
10/20/13
12:25
AM ET
If another demoralizing defeat -- this time a 4-3 loss to Carolina -- wasn't enough, the Islanders lost veteran defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky to a concussion Saturday night.

The 37-year-old Visnovsky, a key veteran presence to the team's blue line, took an accidental blow to the head and had to be helped off the ice during the first period of play. He will be re-evaluated on Sunday.

"To lose a guy that logs 20-plus minutes, that hurts you," Capuano said, according to Newsday's Arthur Staple.

Visnovsky, who averaged over 22 minutes per game for the Islanders, could require a stint on injured reserve. If he is expected to miss significant time, the team could look to unsigned free agent Radek Martinek. Martinek, who has played for the Isles in multiple tours, joined the team in camp on a professional tryout though he does not have a contract.

In other news, the Islanders sent Brock Nelson down to Bridgeport of the American Hockey League, though it is not immediately clear how long the assignment will last.

Tavares: 'We're a desperate team'

October, 17, 2013
10/17/13
2:35
PM ET
UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- The New York Islanders won't be sitting back overlooking the Edmonton Oilers despite the Oilers' 1-5-1 start to the season. After all, the Isles haven't fared much better. Posting a 2-2-2 record through the first six games, captain John Tavares said that simply doing the right things is no longer enough if the team wants to keep moving forward from its surprising playoff appearance last spring.

"We're a desperate team, too," Tavares said.

After winning two of their first three games, the Islanders have seen an old problem resurface as they have coughed up some late-game leads of late. They want to be careful about doing so against an Edmonton team that possesses a lot of speed and skill throughout their lineup.

The Isles will certainly be keen on pressuring Oilers goaltender Devan Dubnyk as a key part of their game plan. Dubnyk has struggled in 4 starts, surrendering 19 goals and posting an unsightly 5.43 goals against average and .829 save percentage.

Regardless, Oilers head coach Dallas Eakins gave Dubnyk the nod Thursday morning and expressed confidence in the 27-year-old netminder.

"I think he's going to get in there and battle and try to get through the start that he's had. I'm not going to tip-toe around it and neither is Devan. He hasn't played as well as we'd hoped." Eakins said. "I talked to him this morning, he seems to be in a great frame of mind. He's ready to go out there and battle for his teammates."

Rugged forward Colin McDonald returns for the Islanders after missing a game with a lower-body injury and rookie defenseman Matt Donovan draws into the lineup as well after serving as a healthy scratch the last game.

Chat wrap with Katie Strang

October, 16, 2013
10/16/13
1:55
PM ET
Katie Strang (12:00 PM):

Hey everyone! Welcome to another week of puck talk here at ESPN.com. As usual, lots to talk about so let's not waste any time. Fire away with your questions, rants, etc!

Adam (Long Island)

Hi Katie! Thanks for the chat. Despite not putting up any numbers on the stat sheet, watching the games I see Zuccarello doing more of the 'little things' (no pun intended) right than guys like Pouliot, and Pyatt. With AV calling out his players and putting Miller in a position to possibly overtake a top-9 spot from one of these players - who do you think is most at risk of losing their spot on the Rangers between Zuccarello, Pouliot, and Pyatt?

Katie Strang (12:03 PM)


It's the top-six forwards -- particularly Pouliot, Brassard, Zuccarello -- that really need to be on notice with Miller's recall. The 20-year-old prospect went on a tear after being sent down to Hartford and he's not timid. Alain Vigneault sent a clear message yesterday when he said that Miller could quickly push one of his teammates out of a top-six spot if his play warrants it. That goes for the PP, too. He'll start on second unit but have an opportunity to move up if he plays well. The way things are going, no one's spot is safe. The only player right now that has been pretty consistent is Brad Richards

To read the transcript of this chat, head on over to here.

Isles fall 3-2 to Blue Jackets in shootout

October, 5, 2013
10/05/13
10:18
PM ET
After topping the Devils in their first game of the season Friday night, the Islanders blew a 2-0 lead to drop their home opener 3-2 against the Blue Jackets at Nassau Coliseum on Saturday.

In their second shootout in as many nights -- Matt Moulson notched the winner in the sixth round against New Jersey on Friday -- the Islanders fell 3-2 after Cam Atkinson beat Isles goaltender Evgeni Nabokov in the fourth round.

Moulson and defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky were the lone goal-scorers for the Isles in regulation. New captain John Tavares picked up assists on both second-period markers but has yet to score his first goal of the 2013-14 season.

Tavares celebrates first win as captain

October, 4, 2013
10/04/13
11:40
PM ET
NEWARK, N.J. -- A few hours before he wore the “C” for the very first time, John Tavares was asked how he wants his tenure as New York Islanders captain to be defined.

[+] EnlargeBryce Salvador and  John Tavares
Ed Mulholland/USA TODAY SportsDevils captain Bryce Salvador and Islanders captain John Tavares get together before the game.
He didn’t mention himself once. Instead, he rattled off the single most important priority concerning the team:

Success.

Tavares himself didn’t deliver the heroics in the Islanders' season opener, but the start of his captaincy began with a win regardless, as Matt Moulson's sixth-round shootout goal and a pair of goals from Michael Grabner boosted the Isles to a 4-3 victory over the New Jersey Devils on Friday.

“It makes for a good feeling in the locker room,” said the 23-year-old Tavares, who was named the 14th captain in team history on Sept. 9.

A new captain isn’t the only thing that seems to have changed around the Islanders, who have long been treated as the red-headed stepchild of the NHL. There appears to be a different sort of confidence that has taken root, and along with that, higher expectations.

The Islanders made their first postseason appearance in six years last spring. And a surprisingly competitive first-round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins earned the Isles some respect, and gave them a taste of something they'd gone a long time without.

Now they enter the 2013-14 season with playoff experience. And they understand the amount of hard work it will take to return to the postseason.

“I don’t know if it’s a new era (but) I think realizing we can be successful with the way we played down the stretch last year ... I think (we) have a little more confidence in getting wins,” Moulson said.

The line of Tavares, Moulson and Kyle Okposo struggled during regulation, mismanaging the puck and spending time hemmed into their own end. But the Islanders received some much-needed secondary scoring from Grabner.

The speedy winger, whose well-documented difficulty on the breakaway is a perennial gripe among Islanders fans, utilized his strength in slicing through two Devils defenders and slipping the puck underneath Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur's pads during the first period. He tallied his second of the night on a right-wing rush in the middle frame.

“He’s obviously proven he can score a lot of goals and how much of a weapon his speed is,” Tavares said. “When he’s using it aggressively, that’s when he’s really playing well.”

That line came through later, in the third period, when Grabner picked up an assist on a nice give-and-go play with Nielsen, in which the Danish center tucked the puck at the left post for a 3-2 lead at 1:01. When the Devils tied the game later in the third on Damien Brunner's second goal of the night, the Islanders didn’t panic.

There were some harried moments in the Islanders' own end in the waning minutes of regulation, but they held on, withstanding some tremendous saves from Brodeur that were vintage Marty.

As one would expect from the first game of the season, it wasn’t pretty. The victory came from the supporting cast, not the stars.

Tavares is fine with that. Like he said, he just wants to win.

Rapid Reaction: Islanders 4, Devils 3 (SO)

October, 4, 2013
10/04/13
10:01
PM ET
What it means: John Tavares' tenure as the 14th captain in New York Islanders history began with a 4-3 win over the New Jersey Devils, after his good friend and linemate Matt Moulson notched the game winner in the sixth round of the shootout. Both teams received ample secondary scoring, with the Islanders getting two goals and three points from Austrian winger Michael Grabner, and Swiss forward Damien Brunner tallying a pair of goals for the Devils.

Breakout night: Grabner's combination of blazing speed and skill but puzzling ineptitude on the breakaway has been a perennial frustration for Islanders fans over the years. He showed improvement Friday, however, when he split two Devils defenders and slipped the puck under Martin Brodeur's pads for his first goal of the season. He scored again in the second period, on a rush down the right wing. He didn't completely shake the perceived weakness, though. His bid for a hat trick was spoiled midway through the third period when he was all alone against Brodeur and got stuffed.

Stocking some skill: The loss of Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise in consecutive offseasons was a massive blow to the Devils' offensive attack. Though the team boasts depth with guys like Ryane Clowe, Michael Ryder and Dainius Zubrus, there is a dearth of top-shelf talent to ease the load from veteran Patrik Elias and centers Travis Zajac and Adam Henrique. That’s why the pickup of Brunner may prove to be a savvy one. The former Red Wing has speed and skill, and showed his nose for the net when he batted in a puck for the team's first goal of the season at 2:59 in the first period. He notched his second goal of the night by lifting a loose puck over Evgeni Nabokov's pads to knot the score at 3-3 midway through the third period.

Czech-ing line: Future Hall of Famer Jaromir Jagr started the game on a line with fellow Czech Elias and the ex-Ranger Clowe. Although loaded with skill and veteran experience, the line didn't exactly boast youthful exuberance. They were on the ice for Grabner's first-period marker at 8:07, and Jagr was on the ice for Grabner's second as well, which came at 13:43 of the second period.

Confusing behavior: It is still customary for fans to cheer after a goal is scored, no? A contingent of Devils fans went against convention and actually booed the team's first two goals, an indication they were not happy with the change in goal song. The Devils used to play Gary Glitter's "Rock and Roll Part 2," before changing it to a Bon Jovi tune this season. Tough crowd.

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