SASKATOON – With only a handful of full-time NHL players dressed on both sides, the New York Islanders overcame the Calgary Flames 4-2 in pre-season action Saturday.
Greg Moore’s short-handed goal at 13:07 of the third period was the difference, giving New York its first win in four pre-season games in front of 12,833 at Credit Union Centre.
Moore, like most players on the ice Saturday, is not a shoe-in to make the Islanders roster. Saturday was the perfect night for those players to prove their worth.
“We’re trying to get our foot in the door in the NHL,” said Moore.
“Games like this we’re just doing our best to make a name for ourselves.”
Head coach Scott Gordon, who fielded a team more fit for the Islander’s farm team in the AHL, liked what he saw from the future of his franchise.
“Given the fact that we’ve had a lot of injuries early in camp, here’s an opportunity for a lot of guys to (play competitive hockey),” said Gordon. “I think the experience will benefit our organization and obviously our players.”
The Islanders jumped out to a 2-0 first-period lead thanks to power-play goals from Jon Sim and Matt Martin. Both goals were the result of sloppy play by the Calgary defenders who failed to clear the puck away from goaltender Curtis McEhlinney.
The Flames clawed back with two goals in the second period courtesy of Jamie Lundmark and Kris Chucko.
“Just one mental mistake out there,” said Flames defenceman Cory Sarich. “We did a good job in the second period of kind of righting the ship. We were doing some good things out there. I thought we’d come out there (in the third) and take it to them. It’s a game of inches and that’s all it was tonight.”
Moore’s goal to made it 3-2 before Martin added an empty-netter to round out the scoring.
Saturday marked the Islanders debut of goaltender Dwayne Roloson who was acquired in the off-season. Roloson made several crucial saves during a two-man advantage for the Flames, before making way for back-up Kevin Poulin mid-way through the second period.
Saturday night’s game came on the heels of the Flames’ 5-4 shootout victory over the Islanders on Thursday in Calgary. Few players from that encounter were in uniform, including Dion Phaneuf who delivered a controversial hit to the Islanders’ Kyle Okposo that evening.
Okposo, listed as day-to-day with a concussion, also sat out Saturday.
With very few of the player’s from that night dressed on Saturday, there was not any noted animosity.
“In the end we just want to be playing hard and not a team that’s easy to play against,” said Gordon. “I think if anything our guys just played hockey and didn’t worry about that.”
The game is one of two pre-season games the Islanders are playing in Saskatoon, where they’ve held training camp since Sept. 13.
Their stint in Saskatoon ends Sunday with a visit from the Edmonton Oilers. This was the first pre-season NHL hockey game held in Saskatoon since Sept. 18, 2007 when the Flames took on the Florida Panthers.
“It was a great atmosphere and a fun place to play,” commented Moore. “It’s a good opportunity for the NHL to be here and for the fans as well.”
Calgary returns home Sunday night for a game against the Panthers before visiting Vancouver on Monday to play the Canucks.