Thomas Vanek needs some time to get cohesive with John Tavares, Kyle Okposo
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Thomas Vanek finished his first Islanders game with more hits (two) than shots on goal (one), which wasn't really what anyone had in mind. The newest Islander didn't exactly make his presence felt, though the Isles' second straight loss Tuesday night featured plenty of blame.
The most fight the Islanders showed was after the final horn, when Cal Clutterbuck and Brad Richards tussled, and the other Isles on ice for the attempted tying goal, Vanek included, shoved a bit with their rivals. There were too many battles lost, too many head-scratching plays in the defensive zone and now the Isles are below .500 for the first time this season.
"We need to win our wall battles and our 'D' has to find a way to play better," Jack Capuano said. "The things we go over, the things we talk about and we're making the same mistakes."
Vanek played the entire night with John Tavares and Kyle Okposo and, outside of that first-period shot on net and a neat pass off the boards to set up a Tavares shot in the third, there wasn't much cohesion there yet.
"The atmosphere was great -- I haven't been in a game like that for a long time," said Vanek, who played 19:49. "Our line was OK. We're still trying to feel our way a little bit."
Vanek didn't have a chance to do anything Monday except fly in, practice with his new teammates and grab some needed sleep. He was sure to have some butterflies playing his 599th NHL game and first for a team other than the Sabres; that it was the rival Rangers didn't quite sink in.
"He really just got here and there was a lot going on," said Tavares, whose 10-game point streak was snapped. "I don't think it's going to take too long to get used to him."
Vanek had a good chance from right in front of the Rangers' net in the first period, a backhand try off a rebound of Matt Donovan's shot. Cam Talbot closed off the angle quickly and smothered Vanek's try.
This was not a game for the Isles' top-line talent, which spent much of the night penned into the defensive zone, unable to contend with the Rangers' superior battle level. The Isles had trouble clearing, winning pucks along the wall and relied on Evgeni Nabokov's solid play.
Vanek parked himself in Matt Moulson's old spot on the power play, but that unit didn't produce in three tries.
"I need to see some video to see John's tendencies, Kyle's too," Vanek said. "For the first game, it was a tremendous effort."
Notes & quotes: Reports emerged of two details of the Vanek trade. The Sabres will pay 19.5 percent of Vanek's salary for the rest of the season -- he's earning $7.142 million this year -- and the 2014 first-round pick the Islanders sent to Buffalo can be switched to 2015 if it is a top-10 pick this coming June.