NEWARK, N.J. – There’s a little more to the New York Islanders than John Tavares.
In a season opener where the Islanders star didn’t do much, his teammates picked him up.
Linemate Matt Moulson scored the only goal of the shootout in the sixth round, Evgeni Nabokov made 26 saves and Michael Grabner had two goals and an assist in the Islanders’ season-opening 4-3 victory over the New Jersey Devils on Friday night.
“We had some mistakes, but we had some really good stuff in there,” Grabner said after the Islanders won a season opener for the first time since 2007.
“It’s the first game and we got the win. Now we have to go back to work tomorrow.”
Nabokov stopped all six shootout attempts and Martin Brodeur was just as good until Moulson beat him under the crossbar.
Moulson quipped that he told coach Jack Capuano that he should have shot earlier in the shootout.
“The puck kind of hopped up and luckily I chipped it up,” Moulson said.
Brodeur, whose father, Denis, died last week, had 23 saves in his first game of the season. Cory Schneider was in goal in the Devils’ 3-0 loss in Pittsburgh on Thursday.
“He waited me out, so I got deep a bit, and he got it up quick,” Brodeur said of Moulson, whose linemates Tavares and Kyle Okposo failed to register a point.
Grabner, who was stopped on two breakaways in the game, didn’t take a shot in the shootout. He deadpanned that his turn would have been after Nabokov.
“Honest I’m not too mad about it, we have some good skill guys out there,” Grabner said.
Frans Nielsen had the Islanders’ other goal.
Recently signed free agent Damien Brunner scored twice for the Devils, while fellow newcomer Michael Ryder had the other.
Josh Bailey almost won the shootout in the fourth round, but his shot hit off the post.
Brunner tied the game at 3-all at 7:34 of the third period with his second goal of the game. It came shortly after a Devils power play expired. Defenceman Anton Volchenkov came off the bench and shot the puck toward the net. It deflected to Brunner and he slid it into an open net.
The Islanders took their first lead of the game early in the third period when Nielsen worked a give and go with Grabner and lifted a backhand between Brodeur’s pads as the goaltender tried to poke check the puck off his stick.
Both teams had scoring chances after Brunner tied the game at 3-all. Kyle Okposo of the Islanders hit the post about a minute after Brunner’s second goal and Brodeur came up with close-in stops on Grabner and Pierre-Marc Bouchard on breakaways.
Nabokov stopped a short-handed shot by Stephen Gionta and a close-in attempt by Steve Bernier.
The Devils twice took the lead in their home opener and Grabner responded for the Islanders each time.
Grabner’s second of the game came on a shot from the right circle that beat Brodeur on the short side at 13:43 of the middle period. Bailey had forced a turnover at centre ice and made a pass that sent the speedy right wing into the Devils’ zone.
“It was great plays by my linemates finding me,” Grabner said. “I was trying to get to open ice and they made some great plays where I could use my speed and capitalize on my chances.”
Ryder, who is wearing the No. 17 jersey that Ilya Kovalchuk had before returning to Russia after last season, rekindled memories of the Russian superstar by snapping a shot past Nabokov a little less than five minutes into the second period. It was his first goal with the Devils.
Brunner, who had a team-high eight shots in Pittsburgh, gave the Devils the lead 2:59 after the opening faceoff. Nabokov couldn’t control a shot by Dainius Zubrus from the slot and Brunner tapped the loose puck into an open net for his first goal as a Devil.
Grabner, who was stopped on an early breakaway by Brodeur before the Brunner goal, didn’t miss his second one-on-one. He took a pass from defenceman Travis Hamonic in stride and slid the puck under Brodeur to tie the game at 8:07.
NOTES: Josh Harris and David Blitzer, who head the group that bought the Devils this summer, dropped pucks at the ceremonial opening faceoff. …This was the first of five regular-season games between teams. Islanders won last year’s season series 3-2. …Brock Nelson, the Islanders’ first-round draft pick in 2010, made his NHL regular-season debut. He appeared in a playoff game last year. … Other than Brodeur in goal, the Devils used the same lineup they did in Pittsburgh on Thursday.