The New York Islanders overcame a 4-2 third period deficit to force a shootout, only to lose the game 5-4 when Mike Ribeiro scored the only goal in the penalty shot competition.
The Isles also lost center John Tavares late in the first period to what was described as a “mild concussion.” Tavares hit the ice after an inadvertent collision near the Islander blue line. He did not return to action and will be evaluated Monday.
Despite the loss of Tavares, the Isles stuck together.
“Obviously, that was a little blow during the game, but I think the rest of the guys pulled together,” Matt Moulson said. “We worked hard out there and everyone tried to make up for that, so hopefully he’ll be ready to go for Monday.”
The Isles had a sloppy first period and fell behind 2-0 on goals by JamieBenn and Stephane Robidas. There were several instances where the defenseman had communication trouble and the team’s passes were not crisp. The second goal was one Isles’ starting goalie Rick DiPietro wanted to have back as it beat him between the legs from long range.
Despite trailing 2-0, 3-1 and 4-2, the Isles never quit. They fired 47 shots on Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen and managed to tie the game at 4-4 when Matt Moulson scored his first of the season on the power play with 2:39 remaining in the third period. With the game on the line, the Islanders managed to take 23 shots on goal in the third period, one more than the Stars managed in the entire game.
“We’ve got a lot of character in this room,” Blake Comeau added. “We’ve got some new guys that change the feeling in this dressing room and some older guys for leadership. That’s something we want to build on.”
The Isles’ power play went 3-for-8 on the night and was a key part of the club’s comeback.
“We were moving the puck,” Doug Weight explained. “I think we’ve done a lot of work and a lot of due diligence on what we have to do better.”
The hard work paid off. The Isles moved the puck very well with the man advantage and took 16 shots on the power play. Special teams hurt the club last year and it’s something they wanted to improve.
“I said to the players yesterday, it would not take a significant improvement to be better in our special teams because our power play and penalty kill were not very good,” Isles’ Coach Scott Gordon admitted.
A few Islanders stood out offensively. James Wisniewski added punch to the power play scoring his first goal as an Islander and adding an assist. Forward Josh Bailey scored and added an assist as well while Weight led all Islanders players with a goal and two assists and tied for the team lead with six shots on goal.
“I feel very confident and very strong,” Weight said. “I’m going to work my butt off and try to play a confident game. I think that’s the most important thing for me is to play a confident game in front of this young team, and I think they’ll do the same.”
Despite losing the game in the shootout, the Isles had a positive feeling in the dressing room because of the way they played and how they managed to fight back and earn the point.
“I’m not sure we would have been capable of doing something like this last year,” DiPietro said. “Just goes to show you how we’ve grown and a lot of our young guys stepped up.”
The Islanders return to action Monday afternoon when they host the Rangers at 1:00 PM.
New York Jets Coach Rex Ryan dropped the ceremonial first puck while wearing a Billy Smith jersey.
The Isles first round pick, Nino Niederreiter made his NHL debut. He had two shots on goal in 11:27 of ice time and was credited with four hits.
Zenon Konopka led all Isles with seven hits.
Ribeiro was the only player to score for either team in the shootout.