Playing in an Islanders jersey at Madison Square Garden would’ve been hard to imagine for Al Montoya as he stood sandwiched between Rangers GM Glen Sather and Assistant GM Don Maloney on his draft day more than six years ago.
Or when he skated the length of the ice, shed his mask and gloves and fought Islanders goaltender Rick DiPietro in a preseason game September 24, 2007.
But it was indeed the opponent’s net from which Montoya was pulled after two period’s in the Islanders 6-3 loss to the Rangers Tuesday night.
“It was one of those nights the bounces didn’t go for me,” Montoya said after the game.
Facing his former team for the first time since a trade from Phoenix brought him to Long Island last month, Montoya gave up five goals on 36 shots.
“I think that’s the toughest thing,” said Matt Moulson, who scored his 30th goal for the second straight season. “The kid’s played so well and came back here with the chance to stick it to his old team. To come out like we did in the first, it’s disappointing.”
Backup Nathan Lawson replaced him in net for the third period.
“I just thought he looked tired,” coach Jack Capuano said. “He’s been battling for us for awhile here and I just thought he looked a little fatigued.”
In his first visit to the Garden since September 21, 2007, Montoya got a glimpse early into what his visit would hold.
Montoya stopped Marian Gaborik twice on a breakaway in the opening minutes, but gave up two goals on a 21-shot first period from the Rangers.
Midway through an Islanders power-play, Brandon Prust tied Frans Nielsen’s league-leading five shorthanded goals, burying a rebound at 3:47. Erik Christensen tallied a power-play goal later in the first for a 2-0 lead.
The Islanders knotted the game at 2 in the second period, but the Rangers notched three straight to take a 5-2 lead into the third.
Montoya said he was most disappointed about the third goal, scored by Ryan Callahan at 11:31 of the second.
“The boys battled back after a tough first, but that third one was the backbreaker,” Montoya said. “And then it just seemed to snowball from there.”
The five goals given up last night by Montoya was the most he has surrendered in 14 games played for the Islanders since becoming the sixth goaltender to appear for the team in net this season.
He entered the game tied with the team lead in wins with a 7-2-3 record, 2.09 goals against average and .926 save percentage.
What seems to be the start of an unlikely career renaissance for Montoya will be without a win at his old stomping grounds this season, however
But ensconced in a corner of the visitor’s dressing room last night, Montoya seemed ready and eager for the next challenge—against Carolina Friday night.
“Oh, why not? This is what we do. It just shows more character,” Montoya said. ”We’ll put this one behind us, learn from what we did wrong and get back to the same page where we were."