The Islanders had the best home record in the Eastern Conference during the 2003-04 season and proved once again there is no place like home by posting a 3-2 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes before a sellout crowd of 16,234 at Nassau Coliseum.
The NHL implemented new measures to increase scoring, but Rick DiPietro put an end to those plans, stopping 42 of 44 shots to put the Islanders in the win column for the first time this season.
"Ricky was the difference tonight, no doubt, said Islanders head coach Steve Stirling. "He held on in there when we had a bad first period and took a while to get going in the second. He deserved to be the No. 1 star.
Speed and pressure broke a 1-1 deadlock heading into the third period. Miroslav Satan scored his first goal as an Islander and Shawn Bates provided the insurance with a shorthanded score less than two minutes apart from each other.
Satan received credit for the go-ahead goal, but Carolina defenseman Oleg Tverdovsky accidentally tipped the puck past Cam Ward to give the Islanders a 2-1 edge seven minutes into the final period.
"Sometimes that's what it takes to get your first goal, said Stirling. "Satan's a good scorer because he knows how to get it to the net. He caught a break on that one. Nothing wrong with that.
With Carolina pinching in to try and get the game-tying goal, Bates was able to capitalize on the open space. Driving past the blue line, the center ripped a straight slap shot right by Ward for his first goal of the season to make it 3-1.
Carolina gave the Islanders a scare in the final 60 seconds. With the goalie pulled, Eric Stall score his second goal of the game and fourth of the season, pulling the Hurricanes to within one.
The Islanders also proved they could play just as well a man up as they did shorthanded. Jason Blake utilized a power play opportunity to score their first goal, banking home a rebound midway through the second to tie the score at one apiece. Mark Parrish's hard shot from just outside the right faceoff circle was stopped by Ward, but Blake was able to push it into the net on his second attempt for his second goal in as many games.
Staal took advantage of the new rule eliminating the red line, beating DiPietro on a breakaway seven minutes into the first. The net seeking center was sprung by an outlet pass by Josef Vasicek from Carolina's own zone to the opposite blue line during a 4-on- 4, giving them a 1-0 lead.
Halfway through the game, the Hurricanes were clearly out-playing the Islanders and doubled their shots. The Islanders thought they finally got on the board when Brent Sopel fired a rocket from just inside the blue line nearly halfway through the second. The puck went in, but the officials ruled that Parrish interfered with the goalie, negating the goal and keeping the score in Carolina's favor.
GOAL OF THE NIGHT: Bates' shorthanded goal not only gave the Islanders a 3-1 lead but crushed the morale of the Hurricanes, who were trying to tie the score after a penalty to Mike York.
HITTER OF THE NIGHT: Bates did not save his power just for offense. After DiPietro was hit by Kevin Adams, Bates immediately rushed to his teammate's defense.
"DINGER" OF THE NIGHT: DiPietro received a hard shot from Justin Williams early in the second, getting hit across the face while covering the puck. He got up with no ill effects.
UNSUNG HERO: Blake was around the Hurricanes' net all night, and almost gave the Islanders' the go-ahead goal in the waning seconds of the second period. On an odd-man rush, Blake found Mike York alone in front of the net. Only a sliding save by Ward prevented a goal.
IN THE ZONE: The Islanders were outshot 17-5 in the first period, but DiPietro kept the deficit to only one goal. The southpaw did not allow a power play goal in three opportunities, and snared a shot from Vasicek out of midair during one flurry.
ICE CHIPS: Bobby Nystrom dropped the ceremonial first puck... Peter Laviolette returned to the Coliseum last night. The Team USA and Hurricanes' head coach led the Islanders to two playoff appearances from 2001-2003 before taking the job in Carolina... The Islanders have a challenge if they want to surpass last season's home mark. In 2003-2004, they posted 25 wins and 55 points at the Coliseum, which were the most for New York team since the 1985-86 season....Next up for the Isles is a Monday matinee at home against the Florida Panthers.
Robert Nilsson - Alexei Yashin - Miroslav Satan
Mark Parrish - Shawn Bates- Oleg Kvasha
Mike York - Jason Blake - Trent Hunter
Aaron Asham - Petteri Nokelainen - Mattias Weinhandl
Janne Niinimaa - Tomi Pettinen
Chris Campoli - Brad Lukowich