The New York Islanders put up a fight Friday night against the San Jose Sharks, but they lost to a bigger, deeper and more skilled team 4-3.
The Islanders new top line Anders Lee, Kyle Okposo and Frans Nielsen scored twice to pace the Islanders. Lee and Nielsen each had a goal and an assist while Okposo set up two goals. Brock Nelson scored the third Islanders goal.
The Islanders were pleased with their overall game as they hung tough against one of the league’s elite teams. “They are not an easy team to play against,” goalie Evgeni Nabokov said. “They are big, they are experience, but I thought we were right there with them.”
Nabokov made 22 saves in a losing effort against his former team. He spent 10 seasons with the Sharks from 1999-2010.
The Islanders played well early, getting the first six shots on goal. After that, San Jose took control of large parts of the opening stanza and took a 2-0 lead on goals by Matt Nieto and Jason Demers.
The Islanders were aggressive in the early part of the second period and tied the game on Lee’s sixth goal of the season. The rookie now has six goals and nine points in eight games this season.
“Lee is big and strong and wins a lot of wall battles,” Nielsen said of his new rookie linemate. “He’s really fun to play with because if you lose the puck he’s right there and gets it right back. He competes really hard.”
Lee himself seems to be more comfortable in his second tour of duty in the NHL. “I’m just trying to play my game and trying to work hard,” Lee said. “I’m playing with two incredibly good players and that will lead you into a lot of things…I’m just trying to get pucks to the net and trying to hang around there.”
When asked about his opportunity to show what he could do in the NHL, Lee simply said, “It’s awesome. I couldn’t ask for anything more. Now I’ve got to go out there every night and try to earn it.”
The Sharks went up 3-1 at the 9:32 mark of the second period on another giveaway in the Islanders zone. Brent Burns intercepted it and took a pair of shots. The second one resulted in a long rebound that Joe Thornton deposited behind Nabokov for his 10th goal of the season.
The Islanders pulled back to within a goal with 2:58 left in the second period when Nelson deflected a shot from the point by Matt Donovan but the Sharks regained the two-goal lead just 1:13 later on a goal by Marty Havlat.
The Isles took 16 shots on net in the third period and managed to make it a 4-3 game when Nielsen scored on a backhander with 21.4 seconds left in the game. Nabokov was off for a sixth attacker at the time.
With the playoffs out of reach, the Islanders are looking at a lineup with younger players. Seeing strong performances from players like Lee and Nelson is very encouraging for the organization.
The Isles resume play tomorrow night when they host the Buffalo Sabres at 7:00 PM. It is the second game of this four-game home stand.
Johan Sundstrom made his NHL debut, playing on the fourth line with Casey Cizikas and Mike Halmo. Sundstrom played 10:28 and registered one shot on goal.
Frans Nielsen led the Isles with eight shots on goal.
Attendance was 13,128.