The Islanders had some trouble getting things going at times during tonight's season opener in New Jersey, but Michael Grabner helped bail them out by creating a lot of offense on his own. Grabner factored into all three of the Isles' (non-shootout) goals and had about four breakaways.
The teams would head to overtime locked up at three and went deep into the shootout to get a decision. Marty Brodeur and Evgeni Nabokov, neither of whom looked great for most of the night, suddenly came to form in the extra session and stopped the first 11 shooters they faced. Nabokov made a sprawling save against Patrick Elias in the third round; Nabokov fell for a fake and went down but was actually able to get back up and get his leg out to stop Elias' attempt. Josh Bailey rung one off the post in the fourth round, but it would be Matt Moulson with a quick forehand shot to win it for the Islanders in the sixth round of the skills competition.
The game got off to a fast start with both teams flying out of the gates in the first period. The Devils would cash in first only three minutes in, as Damien Brunner knocked in a goal that Nabokov should have stopped. The puck hit Nabokov in the glove, then hit the post, came back down to the ice, and Brunner found his way around Travis Hamonic to slam it home.Later in the period Grabner would score his first of the game flying up the ice. It was a nifty give-and-go with Hamonic. After passing it off, Grabner flew up ice as Hamonic hit him in stride. The Devils defense was caught flat-footed and Grabner cashed in.In the second the Isles had a rough period, getting out shot 13-7 and giving up an early goal to the Devils' Michael Ryder. Probably one that Nabokov didn't see, it came through a lot of traffic. But the Islanders had trouble getting much going, especially towards the end of the period as they spent most of the final five minutes hemmed into their own zone. Grabner would notch his second of the game with about six to go, getting the puck under Marty Brodeur, one the Devils goalie should have had back.The Islanders would jump out to a one goal lead in the third, after being lucky to be tied heading into the final frame. Grabner fed Frans Nielsen down low in another give-and-go, and Nielsen potted it between Brodeur's legs. Brodeur was weirdly out of position, as he flailed his stick out to knock the puck away from Nielsen and whiffed completely. It wasn't a great move, and was just kind of a bizarre move from the veteran netminder.In what was a wild back and forth third period, the Devils would get it back and tie it up at 3-3. Brock Nelson, who had played well most of the game, took a very poor hooking penalty on Steve Bernier for his first NHL penalty.The Devils wouldn't score on the ensuing power play, rather they would score just after it expired when Damien Brunner banged home a rebound for his second goal of the game. It was a wild final few minutes, but the teams would head to overtime and then the shootout without a resolution, where Moulson would end it in the sixth round.The Rookies: Matt Donovan finished in the top four on the Islanders blueline in ice time, with Jack Capuano seeming to trust him in big spots including a shift with under two minutes to go in the third period. He also was used on the Islanders' second power play unit. Donovan notched his first career point with a second assist on Nielsen's third period goal.Brock Nelson had a solid night -- save for that costly penalty -- and you can start to get an idea why the team chose him over Ryan Strome for that final forward spot. However he did play very sheltered minutes, with the fewest minutes played on the team (10:41).Top Line: The Islanders first line of Okposo, Moulson and Tavares was relied on heavily throughout the night, with each player recording more than 20 minutes of ice time. They didn't hit score sheet though, and Tavares specifically didn't look his best. However the power play, which is those three plus Visnovsky and Nielsen, looked excellent especially on a man advantage halfway through the third period where they spent a full minute in the Devils zone.[sny-box]Next up for the Islanders is the second half of the back-to-back tomorrow night at the Coliseum. It'll be opening night at the Old Barn against a brand new divisonal rival, the Columbus Blue Jackets (7pm).[/sny-box]