By Jason Lockhart
Down 2-1 going into the third period, the Islanders didn't panic and scored four unanswered goals in the final frame to knock off the Rangers 5-2 at Madison Square Garden Monday night. Two goals by Jason Blake, a tricky re-direct by Chris Simon and an Arron Asham deflection all in the third gave the Islanders their first preseason win.
The line of Shawn Bates, Jason Blake and Jeff Tambellini was jumping all night and Ted Nolan made note of it following the game.
"I was impressed with Bates when I first met him," said Nolan. "He seems very enthusiastic about the game and we all know about Blake's competitive spirit. And then you throw a guy like young Jeff Tambellini in there who is very quick, and you have a pretty effective line."
In the first period, Bates had a glorious opportunity, blocking a Marek Malik shot and going in on a breakaway, but his backhand deke was stopped by rookie netminder Steve Valiquette to keep the game scoreless.
With time winding down in the first, Islanders tough guy Brandon Cullen did what he does best: hitting. Cullen found Ivan Baranka at center ice and laid him out for the biggest hit of the game.
The first period ended with neither team lighting the lamp. The Islanders killed off three penalties in the period while both teams accumulated 12 shots. Alexei Yashin and Viktor Kozlov saw significant penalty killing time and were effective; not allowing any goals while a man down.
"Kozlov has a reach of about 18 feet and Yashin is right behind with 12, so they're pretty good with their sticks," joked Nolan. "The game is changing now with the big bodies and if you have a long stick reach and body positioning then you're pretty effective out there."
Baranka put the Rangers on the board first, shorthanded, when Jarkko Immonen found Baranka, who put it past Rick DiPietro for a 1-0 Rangers lead 2:08 into the second.
The Islanders got it right back on the same power play with Kozlov getting the equalizer. Simon centered a pass from behind the net to Bruno Gervais cutting to the net and fired a shot that was blocked aside by Valiquette. Kozlov gathered the rebound and put the puck passed Valiquette at 3:53 of the first for a 1-1 score.
It looked like the teams would go into the third period tied at 1-1, but with time just expiring on Alexei Zhitnik's interference penalty late in the second period, Malik's shot from the point was tipped in front by Immonen for a 2-1 Rangers lead with 34 seconds left in the second period.
It was tied again -- at two -- on some pretty passing between Bates and Blake. Tambellini kept a bouncing puck in the zone and deflected it to Bates who had an opportunity to shoot, but elected to slide a pass across to Blake, camped out at the side of the net by himself. Blake one-timed the pass on his backhand for a 2-2 score with 4:04 gone by in the third period.
The Islanders got their first lead of the preseason on the power play 8:48 into the third period. Tambellini fed Blake who rocketed a high shot past Valiquette to make it 3-2 Islanders. Zhitnik also picked up an assist.
With some nifty footwork by Simon, the Islanders went up 4-2 with 8:11 left in the third period. Tom Poti sent a cross-ice feed down low to Simon who re-directed the puck with his foot legally past Valiquette. Miroslav Satan was credited with the secondary assist.
To add insult to injury, the Islanders tallied one more power play goal with under a minute to go in the game. Yashin sent a pass to Poti whose shot from the point was perfectly deflected by Asham, camped in front of the net to cap off the scoring and make it 5-2 Islanders.
In his post-game assessment, Nolan talked about the play of his captain.
"It looked like Yashin had a lot of fun out there," said Nolan. "This game is meant to be fun. That's why we call it a game. You've got to enjoy what you're doing and he seems to be enjoying it so far and hopefully he has a lot of fun this year."
The Islanders return to the ice Friday night at 7:30, playing against the Rangers at the Nassau Coliseum.
Slapshots: Three Stars of the Game: 1. Jason Blake 2. Jarkko Immonen 3. Jason Ward ¦Shawn Bates and Brendan Witt wore the "As" The Islanders dressed five former Rangers: Mike Dunham, Peter Ferraro, Tom Poti, Chris Simon and Mike York Mike Dunham replaced Rick DiPietro with 9:12 remaining in the second period.
1 G Mike Dunham
39 G Rick DiPietro
32 Brendan Witt - 77 Alexei Zhitnik
6 Sean Hill - 14 Chris Campoli
8 Bruno Gervais - 3 Tom Poti
45 Arron Asham - 79 Alexei Yashin - 25 Viktor Kozlov
7 Trent Hunter - 16 Mike York - 81 Miroslav Satan
15 Jeff Tambellini - 17 Shawn Bates - 55 Jason Blake
12 Chris Simon - 26 Peter Ferraro - 53 Brandon Cullen
29 Al Montoya
40 Steve Valiquette
6 Darius Kasparaitis 50 Daniel Girardi
8 Marek Malik Karel Rachunek
37 Ivan Baranka 61 Martin Richter
10 Nigel Dawes 5 Matt Cullen 14 Brendan Shanahan
60 Lauri Korpikoski 19 Blair Betts 87 Greg Moore
48 Lee Falardeau 38 Jarkko Immonen 16 Jason Ward
44 Ryan Hollweg 64 Dwight Helminem 28 Colton Orr