Matt Moulson's shootout goal gives Islanders win over Devils
NEWARK -- Perhaps the biggest change from last season and the season before is how the Islanders react to their results.
Once there was an occasional feeling of moral victory in losses. Now the Islanders feel they can be hard on themselves while gaining two points.
That was the case in their opener Friday night when they overcame some sloppy play around their net and an off night from John Tavares to grab a 4-3 shootout win over the Devils, the Islanders' first opening-night win since the 2007-08 season.
Michael Grabner more than made up for Tavares' rocky start to the season, scoring the Islanders' first two goals and setting up Frans Nielsen's go-ahead score 61 seconds into the third.
The Devils tied it and the game went through overtime and to a six-round shootout. Matt Moulson beat Martin Brodeur to end it in extra shootout innings after the first 11 shooters were denied.
"We weren't very good," Tavares said of his line, which included Moulson and Kyle Okposo. "We had some good shifts early but we couldn't get much going. We tried to be too cute at times."
The Isles' failures came at both blue lines. The inability to clear their own zone cost them on the Devils' tying goal at 7:34 of the third, just after a Devils power play expired, when Damien Brunner popped a loose puck past Evgeni Nabokov for his second goal of the game.
There also was inconsistency in getting pucks in deep behind the Devils' defense, which led to some overstayed shifts and tired players trying to defend.
"Basically, guys were exhausted [on the Devils' goals] because we weren't moving or playing as a five-man unit," Travis Hamonic said. "We were making mistakes we wouldn't make if we were playing better together."
But there were bursts, usually of the speedy variety from Grabner.
After Brunner opened the scoring 2:59 into the game off a scramble in front of Nabokov, Grabner took a deflected pass in stride, blazed past Devils defenseman Adam Larsson and slid the puck under Brodeur at 8:07 of the first.
Answering another Devils goal in the second -- this one by Michael Ryder after Josh Bailey's shot block landed neatly on Ryder's stick for a quick wrist shot at 4:46 -- Grabner raced on to Bailey's pass and beat Brodeur between the pads at 13:43 of the second.
Grabner had two other breakaway chances denied by Brodeur, who also made the save of the game when he got his glove on Pierre-Marc Bouchard's tip shot with 6:25 to go in the third.
"It was a little more wide open than we thought it would be," said Jack Capuano, who wasn't as displeased with his team's performance as his players said they were. "We had more chances tonight than we had in a long time [against them]."
The Islanders get right back to work Saturday night, hosting the Blue Jackets in the Coliseum opener. Also, unlike first games in recent seasons, the Isles want to have no regrets about wasting points in October when the season begins to wind down.
"We've been in that situation before where we look back in March or April and think about the points we didn't get in October and November," Hamonic said. "It's a good way to start changing that."