By Jason Lockhart
The Islanders won by their widest margin of the season, bombarding Atlanta with six goals, and Rick DiPietro stopped all 37 shots to post his second shutout of the season.
The crowd was immediately in the game, acknowledging Alexei Yashin's return to the ice -- who incidentally took his first shift with Chris Campoli, playing in his first Islanders game of the season -- with a standing ovation. From there, it was Miroslav Satan who put the Islanders on top.
After stealing the puck behind the net from Greg de Vries, Satan picked up Viktor Kozlov's rebound, kicked the puck to his stick and fired it past a sprawling Johan Hedberg, 8:04 into the first period.
Things got nasty with 3:31 left in the opening period. Brendan Witt went punch-for-punch in his first fight of the season with Jim Slater.
The Islanders exploded for three goals in the second period to put the game out of reach.
Yashin made his presence felt with his 11th goal of the season, 9:06 into the second period. Shawn Bates backhanded the puck to Yashin in the slot, who fired it over Hedberg for a 2-0 Islanders lead.
It was 3-0 on Andy Hilbert's third goal of the season, 41 seconds later. Arron Asham and Mike Sillinger worked the puck down low to Hilbert, who chipped it over Hedberg.
It took two tries, but Bates finally put it home to make it 4-0 Islanders. Bates broke in all alone shorthanded, but was stopped by Hedberg. By the time gathered the rebound and fed it to Bates, who slipped it home, Kozlov had returned from the penalty box. Bates goal with 3:19 left in the second period is his third of the season.
In the third, Kozlov tacked on one more corralling a loose puck in front and flipping it over Hedberg with 9:26 remaining in the final period. Sillinger put the nail in the coffin with a high wrister on a breakaway in the last five minutes of the game, while shorthanded. Hilbert fed Sillinger with a perfect pass to spring him free.
Ted Nolan: "Defensively we were sound, but when we did cough up the puck, Ricky was there to save us. He played a tremendous game and I'm glad he was able to pick up the shutout."
Rick DiPietro "This is a good indication we're starting to grow as a team, bouncing back from yesterday's game."
Shawn Bates: "It's nice to see Alexei back. He's obviously a big part of this team. He's the leader of our team and showed that with a strong performance in his first game back."
Five Stars of the Game:
1. Rick DiPietro: Recorded his second shutout of the season
2. Shawn Bates: A goal and an assist
3. Alexei Yashin: A goal in his successful return
4. Andy Hilbert: Notched his third of the season and tallied an assist
5. Miroslav Satan: Got things going with the first goal and added an assist
Fans of the Game: Evan, Jerry and Craig, from Port Washington, are graduate students over at Fordham University taking in their first game of the season. They bought their student discount tickets today at the box office. Craig recalls seeing his first Islanders game about ten years ago against the Rangers back when the replacement refs were being used. "It was a wild game," said Craig. "I remember there being about four fights." "I'm hoping to come to the Rangers game on December 26," said Evan. "I'll be wearing a Santa Claus outfit."
Fan of the Game II: Supermodel Christie Brinkley attended tonight's game with her children. One of her sons is an avid Islanders fan, so Christie decided to travel all the way from the Hamptons to pay a visit to the Coliseum. Prior to the game, Christie and her sons were seen high-fiving the players before they stepped onto the ice.
Game Operations: The Islanders hosted the Toys of Hope toy drive today at the Coliseum. Fans who donated toys received a discount on tonight's tickets they purchased. Nearly a thousand toys were donated...Sections 109 and 122 were given noisemakers courtesy of the NY Lottery to help distract the opposing goaltenders. It appeared to work as Atlanta netminder, Johan Hedberg allowed five goals in the game.
Slapshots: Rick DiPietro recorded his eighth career shutout...Alexei Yashin returned to the ice after missing the past eight games...It was Chris Campoli's first game of the season...Tonight's attendance was 10,425.
39 Rick DiPietro
1 Mike Dunham
32 Brendan Witt - 24 Radek Martinek
14 Chris Campoli - 6 Sean Hill
3 Tom Poti - 8 Bruno Gervais
12 Chris Simon 79 Alexei Yashin - 55 Jason Blake
25 Viktor Kozlov - 16 Mike York - 81 Miroslav Satan
11 Andy Hilbert - 18 Mike Sillinger - 45 Arron Asham
33 Eric Boguniecki - 17 Shawn Bates - 10 Richard Park
1 Johan Hedberg
32 Kari Lehtonen
3 Vitaly Vishnevski - 7 Greg de Vries
28 Niclas Havelid - 34 Shane Hnidy
4 Braydon Coburn - 5 Steve McCarthy
17 Ilya Kovalchuk - 10 Jason Krog - 19 Scott Mellanby
13 Slava Kozlov - 39 Niko Kapanen - 18 Marian Hossa
36 Eric Boulton - 16 Bobby Holik - 11 J.P. Vigier
14 Jon Sim - 9 Glen Metropolit - 23 Jim Slater