After losing both Mark Streit and Kyle Okposo to injury in the preseason, the Islanders remained resolute heading into Saturday night’s season opener. No excuses, no giving up.
And the Islanders never did up in Saturday night’s 5-4 shootout loss to the Stars at Nassau Coliseum despite facing a scenario late in the first period that could temper just about any team’s optimism.
With 3:17 left to play in the first period, last season’s star rookie and No. 1 overall pick John Tavares was left face-down and dazed after an open-ice collision with Stars winger Adam Burish. Tavares suffered what the team described as “mild” concussion on the play and did not return.
According to a team official, the Islanders have no timetable yet for Tavares, who will undergo further evaluation Monday. After catching a shoulder from Burish while backchecking, Tavares remained on the ice and appeared shaken while tended to by head trainer Garrett Timms. Tavares was able to skate off to the trainer’s room with help, but did not return to the game.
“You never want to see that happen,” said close friend Matt Moulson. “Especially being so close to Johnny, it’s tough to see him like that. Hopefully he’s alright and he’s ready to go Monday.”
Despite losing Tavares and playing without Streit and Okposo, the Islanders put up a spirited fight.
Trailing by two goals at three different points during the game, the team did not fold even without their top defenseman, most versatile forward and prized 20-year-old sniper.
Then, following a momentum-changing hit from Wisniewski on Jamie Benn late in the third, Moulson tied the game at 17:21 for the team’s third power-play goal, and one that sent the game to the shootout.
After both Frans Nielsen and P.A. Parenteau failed to convert in the shootout against Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen, Mike Ribeiro scored the lone goal in the third round, sneaking the puck past Rick DiPietro’s right pad.
“John Tavares goes down, we go down, I let in a terrible second goal and we didn’t quit,” said DiPietro. “We’ve got great veteran leadership and our young guys have enough experience from last year to expect good things out of themselves. I think we took a step in the right direction on that front tonight,” said DiPietro.
Although Tavares’ concussion has been classified as mild, the Islanders have seen their three best players go down with injuries before they even completed their first regular-season game.
Both Streit and Okposo — the team’s two leaders in ice time — suffered shoulder injuries during intra-squad scrimmages. Both have had surgery.
Streit is expected to miss six months with a torn labrum, torn rotator cuff and an apparent dislocation in his left shoulder suffered after colliding with Moulson on Sept. 25. Two days earlier, Okposo suffered a torn labrum in his right shoulder during a scrimmage.
“It just continues to happen to us, this injury bug,” DiPietro said, who knows a thing or two about injuries. “Hopefully it’s nothing too serious.”
After surrendering a pair of goals in the second period, DiPietro settled in for the remaining two periods, allowing his team a chance to stay within striking distance in his first opening night start since October 5, 2007.
But despite DiPietro’s encouraging clean bill of health, the Islanders costly injury issues remain.
“Certainly that’s not the way you want to start ,” coach Scott Gordon said. “It’s unfortunate because we had big expectations for John. Hopefully, it will be on the mild side.”