The New York Islanders continue to show progress as the new season progresses. This young team is learning how to protect a lead and to put an opponent away. It showed in Saturday night’s 5-2 win over the Colorado Avalanche.
Defenseman Milan Jurcina scored twice and added an assist to pace the Isles’ attack. His first goal was shorthanded and came right off a faceoff in the Avs zone with 6:54 left in the second period of a scoreless game. Josh Bailey won the draw and pushed it back to Jurcina who rocketed one home from the right point.
“There’s no question he’s (got) probably one of the hardest shots,” Gordon said of Jurcina who is not exactly known for his goal scoring. “[Assistant Coach] Dean [Chynoweth] joked with me that had that missed the net, it probably would have gone around the rink twice.”
The defenseman kept his sense of humor about his first goal. “I just closed my eyes and shot the puck,” he said with a smile.
Jurcina’s second tally came with 1:59 remaining in the second period. Avalanche goalie Craig Anderson dropped his goalie stick during play in the Colorado zone. Jurcina let a shot go from a bad angle near the goal line which caught Anderson just at the moment he was attempting to pick up his stick.
Josh Bailey added to the Isles’ lead just 59 seconds later with Kyle Quincy of Colorado in the penalty box for roughing. Bailey scored his third of the year from the right circle off a pass by P.A. Parenteau. The Isles took a 3-0 lead as the teams headed into the locker room for the second intermission.
In recent seasons, the Isles had trouble protecting a lead, especially in the third period. The pattern looked like it would re-emerge when Chris Stewart scored for the Avs just 2:19 into the third period. But the Isles quickly struck back and regained their three goal margin when Michael Grabner scored his first goal as an Islander on a two-on-one break with Parenteau.
T.J. Galiardi’s goal midway through the third gave Colorado a glimmer of hope, but Isles’ goalie Dwayne Roloson shut the door the rest of the way, making 11 saves in the third period. John Tavares iced the win with an empty net goal with 20 seconds left on the clock. It was Tavares’ first goal of the season. The former first overall pick had missed the last three games due to a concussion.
Gordon noted that the Isles have a different attitude this season. They expect to win games. “I think they came to training camp with the idea, ‘You know what, we are going to win. Enough’s enough and now it’s time to play with confidence and now maybe what other people don’t know is that we’ve got more than just potential. We have abilities.’”
A new attitude is evident in the Isles’ locker room this year. Slowly, the team is gaining confidence. “It was a huge win for us,” Roloson said. “We have to keep playing with no complacency.”
Trent Hunter was a scratch due to a foot injury. With James Wisniewski back in the lineup after completing his two game suspension, Jack Hillen was once again scratched from the lineup along with Bruno Gervais. Brandon Yip and Adam Foote were scratches for the Avalanche.
Isles’ legendary Hall of Fame Coach Al Arbour was at the game and received a warm ovation from the crowd when he was shown on the scoreboard.
The highlight of a scoreless and otherwise uneven first period was a lengthy fight between Zenon Konopka of the Islanders and Chris Stewart of the Avs just five seconds into the game.