OTTAWA - With much of the focus in Ottawa on the New York Islanders' budding star John Tavares, it was a less-heralded rookie suiting up for the Senators who played the starring role.
Defenceman Matt Carkner, in just his fifth NHL game despite being drafted 10 years ago, scored his first goal and added an assist, being named the No. 1 star in the Senators' 3-2 overtime victory over the Islanders on Thursday.
The performance trumped that of Tavares, the first-overall pick in June's draft who was playing his first game on Canadian soil, and the efforts of Senators centre Mike Fisher, who notched the overtime winner for Ottawa (2-1-0) in its home opener.
"I just wanted to play solid and sometimes good things happen, bounces and that kind of thing, so I'm glad I got the bounces and I'm just enjoying it," said the 28-year-old Carkner, a second-round pick of Montreal in 1999 who cracked the Senators' roster out of training camp. "I thank Fishy at the end there for winning the game. If we didn't win, it wouldn't have felt half as good.
"It was awesome to get the win and the points."
With a less-than-sellout crowd of 18,075 at Scotiabank Place, the Islanders (0-0-2) came back from a 2-0 deficit to force the extra session.
It ended when Fisher broke down his opposite wing and wired a shot past Martin Biron, who was making his first start in the Islanders' net since signing with New York as a free agent in the off-season.
It was Fisher's first goal of the year.
"I found a hole just under his arm," Fisher said. "I didn't think I played well and it's good to get one like that and redeem myself a little bit."
Danish rookie Peter Regin also scored in regulation for Ottawa while Pascal Leclaire came up with 23 saves in goal.
After losing their season opener, the Senators have now picked up back-to-back victories and, including last season when they kicked off the season in Sweden, improved to 9-4-3-1 in home openers.
Kyle Okposo and Matt Moulson, on the power play, replied for the Islanders, who are still looking for their first win of the season after dropping their home opener 4-3 in shootout to Pittsburgh on Saturday. Biron finished with 25 saves.
"It's a tough one for us. We battled back real well. We played a hard game and we got a point, but we're not satisfied with that," said Tavares, whose last visit to Scotiabank Place produced a gold medal for Canada at the world junior championship in January.
He picked up an assist on the night and it took a highlight-reel stop by Leclaire during an Islanders' power play late in the second period to keep him from scoring.
However, he was also bowled over by a hit from Senators defenceman Anton Volchenkov in the first period that drew a big ovation from the crowd and was caught up ice on Fisher's winner.
"It was a good experience, my first game on the road," he said. "Playing against their top top defensive pairing (Chris Phillips and Volchenkov) and the (Jason) Spezza line was definitely a great challenge for me and was a great way to get some experience.
"I thought I did well and I'm hoping to do better next time and keep improving from there."
The Islanders got a boost when veteran Doug Weight, who was appointed team captain before the start of the season, returned after sitting out their opener with a groin injury. Fellow centre Rob Schremp, picked up on waivers from the Edmonton Oilers last week, also made his debut. Right-winger Blake Comeau also played after recovering from flu-like symptoms.
However, New York went behind less than eight minutes into the game after Regin converted a pass from Chris Neil in front of the net.
Ottawa caught a break as moments before the goal, the puck appeared to have hit the mesh over the end boards and the Islanders argued the play should have been blown dead, but the goal stood.
Carkner's marker in the second stood under review.
The big blue-liner threw the puck out front of the Islanders' net from a sharp angle and it went in off the stick of Biron, although the officials took a look at it to determine it hadn't gone in off the skate of Senators right-winger Jonathan Cheechoo, who was driving to the net.
"It was just one of those plays were I was just trying to enter the zone and maybe get a shot with a rebound and I kept waiting and waiting for an opening to shoot," said Carkner, a native of nearby Winchester, Ont., who had family and friends in attendance. "It came, it was a bad-angle shot and it kind of got in between the paddle and his pads and I was fortunate enough for it to go in - not something that I planned, but it's a definite bonus for me."
The Islanders cut the lead in half late in the second when Okposo drove to the net and shovelled the puck past Leclaire for his first goal of the season.
They then tied it early in the third with Swedish rookie Erik Karlsson off for interference for Ottawa. Tavares got the puck back to Weight at the point and he set up Moulson for in the slot for his first goal with the Islanders.
"We got two points out of two games, but the other teams got four," Biron said. "We fought hard to get back in the game tonight, but we're not satisfied with that."