UNIONDALE, N.Y. (AP) -- Kevin Constantine's reputation as a
strict disciplinarian jolted the New Jersey Devils to play scared -- and win.
Constantine, behind an NHL bench for the first time since Dec.
9, 1999, did little more than furrow his brow, chew his gum and
cross his arms in his coaching debut with New Jersey, yet the
Devils showed renewed zip in a 3-1 victory over the New York
Islanders on Tuesday night.
"Maybe his reputation made us more worried about what's going
to happen to us, or what's going to happen to the team if we don't
do what he says," said Bobby Holik, who scored New Jersey's final
goal. "But it's still just the first game. We have a long way to
go to be where we want to be."
The Devils responded well to Constantine, hired to replace
nice-guy Larry Robinson, who was fired Monday.
Constantine, 43, said he would simply observe the Devils for a
few games before instituting his own coaching schemes, but he did
stress defense before the game.
"Guys were blocking shots who had never blocked a shot before
in their life," captain Scott Stevens said.
Constantine also asked the team to play hard, but that was it.
"If you give too much out on the first night, you can paralyze
people," Constantine explained.
New Jersey moved into a tie with Montreal for the eighth and
final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
"When you make a coaching change sometimes the players want to
impress their new coach," Isles defenseman Adrian Aucoin said.
"Sometimes the players are fighting for their jobs ... It's
natural for them to give a little extra."
Jason Arnott centers the "A" line, which had been the subject
of many dramas under Robinson, who had broken up the line, to
varying degrees of success.
But Constantine kept it together and gave it nearly 18:30 of ice
"It was a lot different than before," Arnott said, "but the
more we're out there, the better for us. We want as much ice time
Aucoin stopped the initial rush by deflecting Sykora's shot, but
the rebound found Arnott, who calmly poked it past Islanders goalie
A pleased Lou Lamoriello, the New Jersey GM, was sitting in the
press box and had gushed, "I like what I see!" just before the
Elias made it 2-0 just over a minute later with a wrister from
the right circle. Sykora and goalie Martin Brodeur assisted on the
The Islanders answered 13 seconds later with Miller's goal at
Holik scored for the Devils at 10:14 of the second on the team's
first shot of the period for the final goal of the game.
The Devils were still stunned from the firing of Robinson and
assistants Slava Fetisov, the Russian Olympic coach, and Jay Leach.
"We're still going through the change," Holik said. "Larry
and Slava, you will not find two better guys in all of hockey, as
human beings. It was traumatic. I still feel responsible, as every
The players wouldn't bash Robinson, but admitted the new regime
is starting off nicely.
"He told us when we did something wrong and when we did
something right," Arnott said. "It was good. He's not a screamer.
So far, anyway."
Constantine had conversations with Scott Gomez and Elias during
the game and occasionally gave players instructions on a clipboard.
But he was, for the most part, calm and contemplative.
He did admit to some nervousness in the early going.
"I hadn't been back there in a while," he said. "I just
didn't want to be the one to screw things up."
Constantine last coached the Pittsburgh Penguins for
two-plus seasons two years ago. ... Osgood had 18 saves, Brodeur
had 20. ... Islanders D Kenny Jonsson left with 1:24 remaining in
the second period after hitting the boards headfirst. He was
diagnosed with a "neck strain" and did not return. ...
Constantine interviewed twice with the Islanders in the summer
before New York GM Mike Milbury chose current coach Peter
Laviolette. ... The Isles placed F Ted Donato and former Devils D
Ken Sutton on waivers. If they clear, they will go to Bridgeport.
... The Devils host Chicago on Wednesday, while the Islanders visit
Madison Square Garden to play the Rangers. ... New York's Alexei
Yashin got his bobble-head doll night and it was the Isles' 13th
sellout of the season. It is the most sellouts in a season for the
Islanders since the team had 14 in the 1984-85 season.