The visiting San Jose Sharks walked out of Nassau Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum Friday night with another two points, after defeating their former franchise goaltender Evgeni Nabokov and his current club, the NY Islanders 4-3 in regulation.
Following the conclusion of their difficult west coast road trip, the Islanders returned home to play the Sharks in the first game of their four-game home-stand. Their lineup Friday night was once again drastically different following yet another injury to their lineup. During Monday’s game against his former club, Michael Grabner caught an elbow to the head from a Vancouver player and left the game and didn’t return, his injury was later diagnosed as a concussion. The loss of yet another one of the Islanders top forwards, as well as a top penalty kill player is costly. The Islanders chose to replace Grabner with their AHL affiliate Bridgeport Sound Tiger’s top defensive forward prospect, Johan Sundstrom. Sundstrom’s emergency call up was his first of his career, and Friday nights game against the Sharks was his first career NHL game.
After a slow start by the Sharks, the Islanders peppered Sharks Goaltender Antti Niemi with shot after shot but failed to convert any. After a few minutes and stoppages, San Jose regrouped and came roaring back changing the momentum of the game, and scoring two late goals before the end of the first period. The Sharks rookie Left Wing, Matt Nieto opened the period potting the first Sharks goal from the slot, on a triangle overload play at 13.27. Nieto’s goal put the Islanders on their heals, and a minute later Sharks Defenseman Jason Demers would jump up into the play and score the second goal of the night for the Sharks at 14.46 in the first period.
To start the second period, it only took .32 seconds for the Islanders to cut the lead in half. Frans Nielsen blasted a snap shot from the top of the slot, but Joe Pavelski took the brunt of the shot. Rookie Anders Lee then scooped up the puck in the slot and backhanded it at Niemi, the puck would trickle past him and eventually coast past the goal line. Later on after a failed clearing attempt in the Islanders zone, Brent Burns would grab the puck out of mid-air and blast a snap shot at Nabokov. Nabokov would stop that shot, but the rebound would carom out to a wide open Joe Thorton, who would bury the puck with authority past a diving Nabokov and Matt Donovan, to once again give the Sharks the two-goal lead at 9.32 of the second period. The Islanders responded again, Matt Donovan would fake a slap shot to move the defenders before wristing a shot through the slot, Brock Nelson’s stick would redirect the puck half way through it’s travel and steer it just wide of Niemi’s pad to make it a 3-2 game at 17.02 of the second period. A minute later the Sharks would again, regain their two goal lead. Sharks Left Wing James Sheppard, would pick up the puck along the boards and control it after a failed clearing attempt by Ryan Strome, Sheppard then drew Strome and Lubomir Visnovsky out of position before setting up a wide open Martin Havlat for an easy goal that would be the eventual game-winner.
The San Jose Sharks move to 44-17-7 for 95-pts, while the NY Islanders move to 25-34-9 for 59-pts.
The NY Islanders host the Buffalo Sabres, Saturday at 7pm, at the Nassau Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum, while the San Jose Sharks travel to Madison Square Garden Sunday to play the NY Rangers at 1pm.
Three Stars of the Game
1) Martin Havlat
2) James Sheppard
3) Anders Lee
Notes: Both John Tavares (knee) and Michael Grabner (concussion) are on the Islanders Injury Reserve .