With all due deference to the "King" of Top 10 lists David Letterman, here is a completely subjective list of the 10 games I'll remember most from the 2005-06 season.
# 10 - April 15 vs. Penguins, Won 5-4 (shootout)
For pure entertainment value, this one had everything. Rick DiPietro trying for his 30th win. Sidney Crosby three points shy of 100. Ryan Caldwell making his NHL debut. Mike Bossy back in the building doing the TV broadcast, and the chants of œBos-sy, Bos-sy ringing out once more. And then there was the game itself. The Isles trailed early, but Jason Blake scored a pair of power play goals to set a new career high for points in a season. Jeremy Colliton scored his first NHL goal, but New York couldn't hold a one-goal lead late and the game went to the shootout. In Round 3, DiPietro must stop Andy Hilbert or the Pens win. He makes the save. In Rounds 3, 4 and 5 for the Isles, Bates, Blake and Yashin all must score or the Pens win. They all hit the back of the net, and we go to Round 6 still tied. After the Penguins Ryan Malone misses, Robert Nilsson ends it with his first shootout goal ever. DiPietro becomes just the third Islander netminder to win 30 games in a single season in the longest shootout ever at Nassau Coliseum, and Sid the Kid is held pointless by the Isles for the first time all season.
# 9 - October 19 @ Rangers, Won 3-2 (shootout)
The first Islander-Ranger game of the season goes in the record books as the first shootout contest in N.Y. Islanders history. The Islanders held a 2-0 lead early in the third period, but the Rangers found a way to come back to tie it late. Alexei Yashin is the Isles first ever shootout participant, but he can't score. Miro Satan scores the Islanders first ever shootout goal, and it proves to be enough when Rick DiPietro stops Peter Prucha, Jaromir Jagr (who snaps his stick in half on the shot), and Michael Nylander. But the sight of all 18,200 fans standing, screaming and cheering on every breakaway let's you know that the shootout is here to stay, and that is a big hit in the new NHL. The victory snaps a 10-game winless streak for the Isles against their cross-town rivals.
# 8 - October 20 vs. Rangers, Won 5-4
The first Islander-Ranger game at Nassau Coliseum comes just one night after their dramatic shootout win at the Garden. Pumped up by a raucous home crowd, the Islanders score three goals on their first three shots in the first three minutes on Kevin Weekes to take an early 3-0 lead. The Blueshirts come storming back on the strength of Jaromir Jagr's first hat trick as a Ranger, but the Islanders add a shorthanded goal by Aaron Asham and a power play goal by Mark Parrish to hold on for the win. It was an exhausting 48 hours for fans of both teams, but the Islanders pick up a pair of early season victories and the entire metropolitan area was once again reminded just how much this truly great rivalry had been missed.
# 7 - November 14 @ Penguins, Won 3-2 (shootout)
In just their second shootout ever, the Islanders and Penguins stage an epic 9 round, 18 shooter classic that just didn't want to end. It was the longest shootout ever at the time, and every person in the Igloo that night will never forget it. Rick DiPietro stops 7 of 9 attempts, including current Hall of Famer Mario Lemieux and future Hall of Famers Mark Recchi and John LeClair. Hunter and Bates score early for the Isles, but after five straight stops by Jocelyn Thibault, Jason Blake is finally able to beat him to give the Isles the lead in Round 9. DiPietro stops Ryan Whitney as the final shooter for the Pens, and this one is officially in the record books.
# 6 - December 4 @ Red Wings, Won 2-1
In one of Rick DiPietro's best performances of the season, he made 35 saves and was the number one star in the Isles impressive victory in Motown. The Red Wings came into the game ranked second in the league in wins and goals scored, but the Isles played a solid defense the whole night. Matthieu Schneider and Alexei Yashin exchanged first period goals, and the game appeared headed for overtime before Detroit native Mike York scored the winner for the Isles with just 3:41 remaining in regulation time. The Islanders beat one of the NHL's best teams and picked up their first win at œThe Joe? since November of 1997.
# 5 - March 14 @ Devils, Won 6-1
To me, the most complete victory of the season for the Isles offense, defense and goaltending all coming together in a thoroughly sound drubbing of the Devils in New Jersey. The Islanders scored a pair of goals in all three periods, and chased their longtime nemesis Marty Brodeur to the bench with six goals against him in just 45 minutes of play. Alexei Yashin and Sean Bergenheim each had three point games, while Rick DiPietro lost his shutout bid on a crazy Paul Martin dump in that ricochets off the glass and into the net with just over nine minutes to play. Clicking on all cylinders, the Isles ran their winning streak to four games with their sixth win in seven games overall and finished the season series an impressive 6-1-1 against the Devils.
# 4 - March 21 vs. Canadiens, Won 3-1
This one had a true playoff feel to it throughout the entire evening. The Isles came into the game trailing the Habs by seven points for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern conference. A loss would have ended any realistic hopes of catching Montreal, and a crowd of 14, 286 recognized the magnitude of the contest and helped the home team all night long. With the game tied 1-1 after one period, the Islanders got a second period goal from Robert Nilsson and a third period tally from Jason Blake to assume a two-goal lead. Rick DiPietro made it stand up with 33 saves to earn him number one star honors, and the Isles survived for yet another night by trimming the Canadiens lead to five points.
# 3 - March 25 vs. Thrashers, Won 5-1
Four nights later, another œmust win œ game for the Isles on home ice. Just like Montreal, Atlanta came in seven points ahead of the Isles and holding the final playoff spot. And just like the Canadiens before them, the Thrashers saw that lead cut to five points off another impressive Islander effort. Atlanta came into the game as one of the hottest teams in the NHL, winners of three straight and eight of their last ten. But the Islanders rolled to a 4-0 lead after forty minutes, and eventually knocked Thrashers goalie Kari Lehtonen out of the game early in the third period. Alexei Yashin and Miro Satan chipped in with three points apiece, Bruno Gervais scored on the power play and Mike York tallied with the Isles a man short. Rick DiPietro turned aside 21 Thrasher shots as the Islanders ran their Nassau Coliseum winning streak to six games and kept themselves in the hunt.
# 2 - October 8 vs. Hurricanes, Won 3-2
After almost 18 months without an Islanders game at Nassau Coliseum due to the lockout, hockey is finally back and the sellout crowd of 16,234 loved every minute of it. The game was tied 1-1 going into the third period, but Miro Satan scored his first goal as an Islander and Shawn Bates added a shorthanded tally to seal the win over former Islander coach Peter Laviolette's Canes. Rick DiPietro was the number one star with 42 saves and the Islanders got their first win of the new season.
# 1 - March 4 vs. Flyers, Won 4-2
The absolute best night of the season, period. Before a sellout crowd of 16,234, the Islanders honored the 1980 Stanley Cup champions with a beautiful ceremony that had the ol' barn on Hempstead Turnpike shaking to its very foundation once again. Arbour, Torrey, Potvin, Gillies, Trottier, Bossy, Nystrom and Smith weren't just banners hanging overhead on this night they were all back on the ice, in the flesh, reunited with the rest of their teammates from that amazing squad. Jiggs McDonald's voice filled the air, Lord Stanley's Cup was there too, and for one amazing night it felt like May 24, 1980 all over again. All that remained was for the Islanders to beat the Flyers just like they did 26 years prior, and of course we all expected a 5-4 overtime win. With the game tied 2-2 halfway through the third period, the Islanders got goals from two kids who weren't even born yet when the Islanders won their first Cup Chris Campoli and Trent Hunter and a perfect evening had a perfect ending. Enough memories to last a lifetime for everyone, old fans and new, who were lucky enough to be there on this unforgettable night.