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Grabner scores twice; Islanders top Devils in shootout

by Dan Rosen /

NEWARK, N.J. -- The New York Islanders will be better suited to build on last season's success if they continue to find ways to grab two points out of road buildings on the rare nights when John Tavares' line isn't generating anything resembling offense.

Tavares, Matt Moulson and Kyle Okposo were shut out for 65 minutes Friday at Prudential Center, but the Islanders pulled out a 4-3 shootout win against the New Jersey Devils.

Moulson scored the only goal in the shootout in the bottom of the sixth round to give the Islanders a win in their season opener. They play their home opener Saturday at Nassau Coliseum against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

"You want to be in those situations where you have a chance to win the game for your team, especially since I didn't think our line played great [Friday]," Moulson said. "To help out that way is good because I didn't help out too much in the game."

It didn't matter all that much because the rest of New York's lineup picked up the top line and goalie Evgeni Nabokov did enough.

Michael Grabner scored twice within the first 34 minutes and delivered an assist on Frans Nielsen's go-ahead goal 61 seconds into the third period. Travis Hamonic, Josh Bailey and Matt Donovan had assists, and Nabokov made 26 saves, including five in the shootout.

"[Our top line is] getting a lot of attention, and Johnnie is one of the best players in the game," Grabner said. "If they don't have an offensive night like they're supposed to, other guys have to step up. It's not always easy to score every game. I'm not going to score two goals every game. Sometimes your stuff doesn't work, so other guys have to step up. Fortunately our line could do that and I'm confident [the first line will] have a good game [Saturday]."

Damien Brunner scored twice for the Devils, who got 23 saves from Martin Brodeur, but New Jersey couldn't avoid losing for the second straight night. The Devils, who were shutout 3-0 at the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday, managed one of four possible points in the first of their League-high 22 back-to-back sets.

They head out on a five-game road trip that starts Monday against the Edmonton Oilers. New Jersey is set to play at Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg and Ottawa before returning home to face the New York Rangers on Oct. 19.

"It's a big point," Brodeur said. "You have to start somewhere. A lot of new guys in the lineup and you can see the new faces in shootout. It'll take time and you have to give it time. Great thing [is] we're now going on the road, a chance to get to know each other."

Brunner scored his first with the Devils 2:59 into the first period, but Grabner came back just over five minutes later and used his speed to knife through the middle of the defense before beating Brodeur with a shot underneath his stacked pads.

Grabner's speed and a smart pass from Bailey helped the Islanders tie the game again, this time at 2-2, with 6:17 to play in the second period.

Bailey blocked Anton Volchenkov's dump-in attempt, found the puck at his feet, spun and found Grabner streaking into the neutral zone with a blind pass. It sent Grabner down the right wing in stride for a shot off the rush from the circle that squeezed through Brodeur.

Grabner had a breakaway opportunity in the third period with the game tied at 3-3, but Brodeur stoned him with a blocker save. He was robbed by Brodeur's glove hand in the first period.

"[Grabner] stepped up," Tavares said. "He has a lot of skill offensively, and I don't think we're too surprised when we see him putting the puck in the net, but it's good to get everyone involved and contributing. We need that throughout our lineup."

The Devils found some offense after getting blanked by Marc-Andre Fleury on Thursday.

Brunner scored each of his goals, including the tying goal with 12:26 to play in the third period, from Nabokov's doorstep. Michael Ryder gave New Jersey a 2-1 lead 4:46 into the second with a quick wrist shot from the left circle that beat Nabokov high on the blocker side.

Adam Henrique had a couple of excellent chances, but he hit the post once and was robbed by Nabokov on a power play less than two minutes after Ryder scored. Nabokov came across his crease to stop Henrique's shot.

"In Pittsburgh we played better hockey throughout the full 60 minutes than we did [Friday]," Devils forward Patrik Elias said. "Funny, we scored some goals [Friday], but gave up a lot of chances."

They didn't give up too many to Tavares, Moulson and Okposo. That's typically a successful formula against the Islanders, but Friday wasn't about what the line couldn't generate because of many other factors.

Grabner stepped up. Nielsen scored. Nabokov had several big stops and a perfect record in the shootout. Casey Cizikas played well away from the puck. Brock Nelson was dangerous in his NHL regular-season debut. Donovan jumped into the play and picked up an assist in his first NHL game since April 7, 2012. Hamonic did the same thing. Bailey contributed.

If those players stay consistent, and the top-liners find their way, the Islanders will be in position to build on last season's success, when the made the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2007.

"Good teams pick each other up when they have to," Moulson said. "Obviously we want to be a part of helping this team win, and we'll be a lot better [Saturday], I'll guarantee that."


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