After a deflating loss to Florida on Opening Night (10/8), the New York Islanders had a chance to put up a meaningful win in front of another sell out crowd last night (10/15). They seized upon the opportunity, gaining a 4-2 decision over the rival New York Rangers.
The Rangers, who opened their season in Europe and won't play a home game until October 27th (due to renovations currently underway in their home arena), had a good amount of support (as they usually do these days) at Nassau Coliseum. But their blue-sweatered supporters were quieted in the first period by a significantly improved home team, and they headed for the exits after John Tavares had once again worked his magic.
Tavares, fresh off a four point night in the Isles' win over Tampa Bay (10/13), matched the output against the Rangers. Unlike in that game, he netted a hat trick, the third of his career.
The Islanders, who had gone with the same lineup in their first three games, tweaked things a bit before this match. Scratched from the lineup, somewhat surprisingly, was Blake Comeau. Trevor Gillies saw his first action of the season. Additionally, starting in goal, in his first NHL game since April 10, 2010, was Evegeni Nabakov.
Nabokov played well, saving 29 of the 31 shots he faced. There was mild concern for his well-being midway through the third period, when he was slow to get up out of his crouch and was seen flexing his legs. A trainer was not needed on the ice, however, and he assured the media after the game that his movements were only due to a puck catching him in a "place where there was no protection." Okay, Nabby, we feel your pain.
The first star of the night was clearly Tavares, though, despite very good efforts from P.A. Parenteau (3 assists), Mark Streit (2 assists, 24:50 played), and the fourth line (Coach Jack Capuano has consistently praised them).
Tavares is currently tied for the league lead in scoring with David Legwand (Nashville) and Toronto's Phil Kessel. Back-to-back 4 point nights will do that for a player.
The only tone of concern, as the Islanders sit at 3-1 and prepare for their first road trip, has to be the secondary production. Lines two and three have barely clicked at all. It has been nice to have the top line carry the team so far, but players like Kyle Okposo and Michael Grabner haven't yet found the net with regularity. Okposo has just a lone assist this season and Grabner scored his only goal from it.
Coach Capuano also spoke of some defensive fumbles that he'd like to see cleaned up before his team next hits the ice.
"We can play better. We had some breakdowns. [The Rangers] had some really good scoring opportunities." He continued, "We have to get better in certain areas of our game, for sure."
But that's a worry for another day. The Islanders will have four days off before they play again (at Tampa Bay on 10/20).
Right now, Isles fans, your team is 3-1 and goaltending hasn't been an issue. Enjoy it.