Isles Defeat The Hurricanes 4-3 In The Last Home Opener At Nassau Coliseum

Entering Nassau Coliseum tonight was very different than every other season; there was a vibe circulating around the concourse that was unlike the previous years. Tonight’s home opener marked the beginning of the end for the 43-year old Nassau Coliseum, the only building that the Islanders have ever called home.

The game opened up with a raucous crowd welcoming back the orange and blue to the ice. Unlike previous years, the Islanders came out all at once and stood around the logo at center ice as opposed to one by one, signifying that this year is all about the team and what it has meant to Long Island since 1972.

“It was crazy. The last time we heard it like that was in the playoffs,” said Josh Bailey, who had tonight’s game winner in a 4-3 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes.

“From the time we were getting ready we could hear it out there. When we were coming in the rink this morning for meetings, people were out there tailgating. It can’t help but get you fired up, put a smile on your face. It was insane out there and we definitely fed off it. It made us a better team.”

The first period opened up with the Islanders starting off strong, establishing their quick fore-check and keeping the puck in the Carolina Hurricanes’ zone. John Tavares would open the scoring with a blast on the power play, which has been very successful through the first two games. Brock Nelson and Johnny Boychuk had the assists, carrying over their impressive play from the previous night.

“Just keeping it simple. I don’t think there’s any secret,” said Nelson in regards to the Isles’ success with the man-advantage “Johnny’s [Boychuk] ripping pucks from the point and right now they’re kind of bouncing in, which is nice and fortunate at the same time. So just continue to keep it simple, make the smart play, and when you have Johnny out there shooting pucks like he does, it’s going to open up seams and give John and Kyle some room to make some plays."

The Hurricanes would respond with a power play goal of their own from Jiri Tlusty, who seems to always find the back of the net when he plays against the Isles. The assists would come from John-Michael Liles and Alexander Semin at the 14:13 mark of the first.

But the Isles would respond 31 seconds later with Corey Conacher netting his first tally of the year. Tavares would find his way to a loose puck in front of the net and get a shot on Anton Khudobin. JT would then grab his own rebound and feed it back to Conacher who was all alone in front of the crease. Kyle Okposo had the other assist on the play.

However the Canes’ power play would cash in once more, going 2-for-5 in the first period. Tlusty (there’s that name again) would score his second of the period with just 17 seconds left in the opening frame. The Isles had a lot of trouble moving the puck out of their zone. The Canes would capitalize by showing patience with the puck, moving it down low to Tlusty on the door step. Eric Staal and Semin would have the assists.

The second period saw things get a little bit more physical in the Islanders’ offensive zone. Tim Gleason would get into penalty trouble, similarly to last night. With both teams sending players to the penalty box after a few skirmishes in front of Khudobin’s crease, the Isles would return to the man-advantage and capitalize once again from a blast from Boychuk at the point. The puck would change directions off of Nelson in front for his third goal of the season. Okposo would also earn his second assist of the night.

After Nelson scored, Gleason would shove Nelson into the boards, prompting Tavares to get involved once again. A fight appeared imminent, and Matt Martin would drop the gloves with Jay Harrison on the next shift. Both combatants provided an even scrap. Each player received a roughing minor, as well as the expected fighting majors. Harrison also received 10 minute misconduct.

The period would then have some back and forth play, but nothing flashy from either team.

Josh Bailey would change that in the final minute of the period. Nikolay Kulemin sent a loose puck across the neutral zone that would glide in over the blue line. Frans Nielsen picked up the loose puck and found Bailey in the slot, who would then send a slick wrist shot over the glove of Khudobin to send the Isles into the third period with a 4-2 lead.

The final period would see the Isles maintain the lead until the 14:01 mark. The crowd would once again reach volumes that resembled a playoff atmosphere, but would soon be quieted when Tlusty completed his hat trick.

The Canes dumped the puck into the corner and then aimlessly threw it in front of the net. Only Brain Strait was standing in front of Chad Johnson, but the Isles net-minder didn’t realize that he had support from his defense in front. He poked the puck away but inadvertently sent it right onto Tlusty’s tape.

Despite the miscommunication, the Islanders would hold on for the 4-3 win to give them a 2-0 start to the season.

The Islanders will look to continue their winning ways when they face the New York Rangers on Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden.

-Rob McGowan

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