By Jason Lockhart
The Islanders out shot, out hit, out worked and out played the NY Rangers Friday night at the first game at the Nassau Coliseum since last April. The hard work paid off, with Alexei Yashin notching the deciding goal late in the third period and Rick DiPietro playing well in goal, as the Islanders won 2-1 in front of a revved up crowd of 12,812.
"It's a growing process," said Ted Nolan. "The more you attack people the more you limit the opposition's opportunities. The more you have it the less they have it. It's starting to come."
Things heated up with just 4:11 gone by in the first. Off a draw deep in the Islanders' zone, Brandon Cullen locked fists with Francis Lessard for the longest fight of the Islanders' preseason. The fans were on their feet as Cullen and Lessard each landed a few solid punches before the fight broke up.
DiPietro put on a show during the first period, keeping the Rangers off the scoreboard. His masterful puck-stopping began with a series of point blank shots on the Rangers' third power play of the period. The Rangers continuing to pressure later in the period with shots from the slot by Martin Straka and Jaromir Jagr, but DiPietro would not budge.
DiPietro was helped in the period by his defense when Matt Cullen broke in one-on-one with four minutes remaining, but was flipped head-over-feet by Rick Berry to prevent the Rangers' scoring opportunity. The physical first period saw nine hits per team, but no scoring. The Islanders finished with a 23-16 advantage in hits.
"We want to finish our hits," said Nolan. "We don't want to be charging at people or running at people, but we want to see a lot of physical contact. It gets you physically into the game."
DiPietro had to come up big, again, early in the second period during the Rangers' five-on-three power play. With Brendan Shanahan and Jagr manning the points, DiPietro stood up to the challenge as the Blueshirts peppered him with shots.
The Rangers couldn't convert on the 5-on-3, but the Islanders did. With both Marek Malik and Michael Nylander serving two minutes for trying to haul down Jason Blake, Miroslav Satan gathered a rebound in front of the net off of a Yashin shot, and calmly put it over a fallen Steve Valiquette for a 1-0 Islanders lead with 5:18 remaining in the second period.
The Islanders got a bad break with only 1:15 left in the second period. DiPietro's clearing attempt hit a partition in the boards and bounced right to Lessard, who shot it towards the empty net. Brandon Dubinsky was parked in front and jammed it home with DiPietro and Chris Campoli desperately trying to stop the shot, but the puck trickled through for a 1-1 game. Despite the late goal, the Islanders dominated the period, out shooting the Blueshirts 12-4.
It was late in the third period when Captain Yashin struck. Viktor Kozlov sprung Bruno Gervais and Yashin for a two-on-one. Gervais snapped a shot that rebounded to Yashin, who backhanded the puck past Valiquette to give the Islanders a 2-1 lead with 6:51 left in the third.
DiPietro, who stopped 14 of 15 shots, withstood late pressure from the Rangers with Valiquette pulled, but did not allow another goal as the game ended with the Islanders winning and raising their record to 2-2-0 in the preseason.
"We see guys like Alexei having a good time out there and Miro (Satan) lifting up his game," said Nolan, "and the feeling we're trying to get on this team is starting to build throughout the whole team."
Slapshots: Three Stars of the Game: 1. Alexei Yashin 2. Rick DiPietro 3. Miroslav Satan¦Jason Blake and Chris Simon wore the "As."¦Joel Bouchard (hamstring), Mike Sillinger (quadriceps contusion), Sean Hill (finger), Shawn Bates (healthy), Mike York (healthy) and Brendan Witt (healthy) were scratches¦Prior to the game, Mike Dunham signed a one-year contract The Islanders went 8-for-8 on penalty kills.
1 G Mike Dunham
39 G Rick DiPietro
77 Alexei Zhitnik Rick Berry
14 Chris Campoli Radek Martinek
8 Bruno Gervais - 3 Tom Poti
45 Arron Asham - 79 Alexei Yashin - 25 Viktor Kozlov
7 Trent Hunter - 26 Peter Ferraro - 81 Miroslav Satan
15 Jeff Tambellini 11 Andy Hilbert - 55 Jason Blake
12 Chris Simon - 10 Richard Park 53 Brandon Cullen
30 Henrik Lundqvist
40 Steve Valiquette
6 Darius Kasparaitis 67 Marc Staal
8 Marek Malik 23 Karel Rachunek
51 Fedor Tyutin 4 Aaron Ward
82 Martin Straka 5 Matt Cullen 18 Adam Hall
14 Brendan Shanahan 92 Michael Nylander 68 Jaromir Jagr
28 Colton Orr -54 Brandon Dubinsky - 58 Francis Lessard
44 Ryan Hollweg 19 Blair Betts 25 Petr Prucha