By Kerry Gwydir
SCORESHEET | SUPER STATS
Rookie Petteri Nokelainen's first NHL goal at 1:03 of the third period -- followed shortly by his first NHL assist, on a goal by Mark Parrish at 3:23, were the key moments in the Islander's 5-3 win in Washington this evening.
You could make the case that the stars of tonight's win were the youngest and oldest players on the Islanders. Nokelainen, just 19, dominated the third period centering Oleg Kvasha and Parrish. Garth Snow, 36 years old, was sterling when he had to sub for Rick DiPietro in the second period after the starting goalie missed the rest of the game after a head-to-skate collision while making a save. DiPietro suffered a concussion and is listed as day-to-day because his injury is not considered serious. Snow made 13 saves on 14 shots.
"Petteri was fantastic," said Islanders head coach Steve Stirling after the game. "We couldn't have asked for more from him. He was having an excellent game even before getting his two points, big insurance goals for us. I'm really happy for Nokey.
"And Garth was great," continued Stirling. "That's a tough spot for any goalie. But to ask Garth to go in when he hadn't played a minute so far in the regular season...well, he was a big part of this win."
Alexei Yashin got the Isles on the board first when the Islander captain re-directed home Brad Lukowich's point shot past Johnson. Yashin got position on Washington captain Brendan Witt in front and was left unchecked to score his second of the season at the 2:10 mark.
Robert Nilsson initiated the Isle's second goal just 1:03 later when Trent Hunter managed to bank a poor-angled shot off Johnson's skates and over the goal line. Nilsson, who skated the puck into the offensive zone alone as his team changed, managed to win a battle along the boards and find Jason Blake cruising into the Washington end. The Islander left wing quickly whisked the puck down low to Hunter, who snapped off his first of the season. It was Nilsson's first assist and point of his NHL career.
Oleg Kvasha and Blake joined together for the third goal of the opener, a shorthanded tally with Brent Sopel in the box. Kvasha played a big part in the score when he pressured Washington defenseman Mike Green at the Isle's blueline. That forced a turnover in the neutral zone with Blake and Kvasha roaring down on a 2-on-1 with Blake finishing off a nifty display of tic-tac-toe from Kvasha eight minutes in. Lukowich notched his second helper of the night on the sequence.
The hosts answered as the powerplay ended when forward Matt Bradley snapped a short-sided goal between DiPietro and the post. Alex Ovechkin assisted on the tally, which came when Bradley wheeled out from behind the Islander net.
After the Isles failed to bury several early quality scoring chances in the second, Washington continued to rally. Steve Eminger brought the Caps to within one at the 7:52 mark with his second of the season as he roofed a Brian Willsie centering pass over DiPietro's left shoulder.
DiPietro would be knocked out of the game with 11:09 to go in the same stanza during a goal-mouth collision involving Washington's Jeff Halpern. On the play, Ovechkin tried to pull the puck around Janne Niinimaa and rush the front of the Isle's net. DiPietro dove out to poke-check the puck, and was met by Halpern's skate in the mask. After head trainer Rich Campbell examined DiPietro for several minutes, DiPietro left the game under his own power and was replaced by Garth Snow.
A minute later, the Isles had a goal nullified courtesy of video review. Hunter had an apparent second goal waved off with 9:38 left when he kicked a pass from Blake toward the net. As the puck beat Johnson, Hunter barely missed deflecting the puck with his stick thus making the play legal.
"We responded tonight," said Kvasha, who had three assists. "It was a good game for us."
The story, however, was Nokelainen, the Islander's 2004 first round pick who stepped in for the injured Shawn Bates and made his presence felt. "It wasn't the prettiest goal," said Nokelainen after the game, "but I'll take it. I waited four games for it and it was worth it because we won the game. I'm proud of my first points, but winning is all that really matters."
The Islanders out-shot Washington, 49-29...D Brad Lukowich had two assists...Matt Bradley scored in the final minute for Washington to make the score 5-3...the Islanders were without F Shawn Bates, who is day-to-day with a hip injury.
(45) Arron Asham-(79) Alexei Yashin-(81) Miroslav Satan
(55) Jason Blake-(16) Mike York-(7) Trent Hunter
(12) Oleg Kvasha-(29) Petteri Nokelainen-(37) Mark Parrish
(11) Mattias Weinhandl-(21) Robert Nilsson-(49) Eric Godard
(77) Alexei Zhitnik-(3) Brent Sopel
(25) Brad Lukowich-(14) Chris Campoli
(44) Janne Niinimaa-(24) Radek Martinek
(39) Rick DiPietro
(30) Garth Snow
(8) Alexander Ovechkin-(11) Jeff Halpern-(24) Brian Willsie
(16) Brian Sutherby-(9) Dainius Zubrus-(17) Chris Clark
(12) Jeff Friesen-(25) Andrew Cassels-(20) Petr Sykora
(10) Matt Bradley(15) Boyd Gordon(27) Ben Clymer
(52) Mike Green(6) Jamie Heward
(44) Steve Eminger(19) Brendan Witt
(26) Shaone Morrison(34) Mathieu Biron
(1) Brent Johnson
(37) Olie Kolzig