JG Pageau had to wait a lot longer than he wanted to for his first win as an Islander, but it was a big one, as the Isles beat the Florida Panthers 2-1 in their Qualifying Series opener.
Pageau played a rather large role in the win, scoring the Islanders first goal on Saturday, winning eight-of-10 faceoffs and giving the Isles a spark from the drop of the puck.
"It's great," Pageau said of getting his first win with the Islanders. "I think that break gave me a chance to really get to know the system, to know the guys more an I feel really lucky to be a part of this family here. I really feel like this is a brotherhood and to be part of it, I feel very lucky. I'm looking forward to the next game. I'm very happy about this game."
Pageau played in all situations on Saturday, seeing 1:02 on the power play and another 40 seconds on penalty kill. The most important situation he found himself in came with 1:20 to play and the Islanders nursing a 2-1 lead. Head Coach Barry Trotz opted to send a forward he'd coached for fewer than 10 games into a big spot. Pageau won the draw, chewed up some clock and was the last Islander to touch the puck as the buzzer sounded.
"It's always fun to be out there in different situations," Pageau said. "Just fun to be out there and compete and be in that situation. I just wanted to win that faceoff to keep gaining that confidence. These are the situations that are fun to be in and I really wanted to do the job."
Overall, Trotz was pleased with the entire line of Pageau, Derick Brassard and Tom Kuhnhackl, the latter of whom sat out Wednesday's exhibition contest.
"They were good… They were never really in any trouble," Trotz said. "That's what you want. They're all reliable and chipped in."
The chemistry between Pageau and Brassard was evident on Saturday. The duo played together in Ottawa for two seasons and were paired together from the first day of July's training camp. Brassard dished to Pageau for the icebreaker 12 minutes into the first period - with Kuhnhackl forcing a turnover before Brassard spotted a driving Pageau.
Brassard set Pageau up for a golden opportunity in the third period as well, beating out Anton Stralman in a footrace, before spotting a trailing Pageau in the slot. Pageau picked up his own rebound and would have had his second goal of the night, if not for a key save from Sergei Bobrovsky.
Pageau finished the game with a goal, four shots (six total attempts), three hits, a takeaway and an 8-of-10 night in the face-off circle. It added up to an important Game 1 win for the Islanders and a happy coach in Trotz, with even more faith in his newest all-purpose center.
"Pager is able to elevate his game," Trotz said. "This sort of break and coming in fresh to a training camp, it was really helpful for him. I think he feels like he's a bigger part of it and the guys know what a good player he is. He's smart, he's quick, he always raises his game, he's extremely competitive. That's what we were looking for, someone with a good hockey IQ and a high-competitive level at center ice and he's fit that bill."