HOW IT HAPPENED
The Islanders won 3-2 over the Buffalo Sabres, their first win in a season opener on home ice since 1995! Brock Nelson opened up the game with the first goal of the 2023-24 season... and Brocktober. The almost 32-year-old was also able to pick up a primary assist on Kyle Palmieri's first goal of the season. The second line of Pierre Engvall-Nelson and Palmeri had UBS Area rocking during the first period, with the Islanders controlling much of the play.
The Islanders showed their center depth and dominance in the faceoff circle, going 60% in the faceoff circle tonight. The Sabres tried for a comeback during the second and third periods, and some defensive mistakes were made. Despite a coach's offside challenge, Casey Cizikas scored late into the third period to solidify the Islanders' win, while the team shut down a few last-minute Buffalo chances.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
The powerhouse second line sent the Islanders off on a strong start. Scoring two quick goals was vital to the success of the game, especially with Buffalo's young scoring prowess. Unlike last season, Ilya Sorokin did not have the bail the team out time and time again. A few Sorokin-style big saves were made, but the defense stodd strong against Buffalo.
Even after letting up two goals, one coming off a huge defensive mistake by Adam Pelech, the Isles didn't let up on the Sabres. They understood the talent that team has and were able to sustain pressure and made few misrakes. This game was high-intensity and emotional for both teams, but the Islanders were able to wring it in, throw a few big hits, and stay on top of the Sabres.
WHAT WENT WRONG
History tends to repeat itself with the Islanders, but no fan is excited to hear the repetition of "special teams remain a problem." The Islanders did a great job staying out of the box and went 2/2 on the penalty kill, the Islanders can't seem to figure out the whole power play thing. During the 2022-23 season, the Islanders only had a 15.77% success rate on the power play. After going 0/3 on the man advantage tonight, fans have a right to start getting nervous.
Noah Dobson's defensive prowess continues to be a huge concern to the Isles. Head coach Lane Lambert trusted the 23 year old to play with one of the best (if not the best) shut down defenseman in the league in Adam Pelech, but he continues to struggle any time he's forced to play in the D-zone. While fans can breathe a little lighter knowing Pelech and Sorokin are backing him up, its time for Dobson to grow as a defenseman and not rely on his offensive abilities.
STATS OF THE GAME
Per Eric Hornick in The Skinny, the Isles won a season-opener on home ice for only the third time, and first time since January 21, 1995. The Isles dressed 20 players on Opening Night who all had previous experience with the team for the first time since 1987.
Per NHL PR, Nelson's (1-1-2) season-opening goal was his sixth career goal in a season-opening game. He officially passed legends Bryan Trottier (5-9-14 in 14 GP) and Billy Harris (5-1-6 in 8 GP) for second-most goals in a season opener in franchise history. Mike Bossy (7-4-11 in 10 GP) remains in first place.
SOCIAL MEDIA MOMENT OF THE GAME
This happened after the game as MSG Networks Shannon Hogan and Thomas Hickey plan on spending more time around the fans after wins this season. Shannon borrowed an Isles Lab hat and did a little dance which led to chants of "SHAN-NON HO-GAN" for a while.
The Arizona Coyotes are heading east to UBS Arena on Tuesday night.
Faceoff is at 7:30 pm EST.