The opportunities for second-guessing began early, with a lineup that announced Joe Finley and Eric Boulton would be in the season opening lineup while Thomas Hickey and Casey Cizikas drew the initial scratches. Several hopeful fans were expecting otherwise.
Talent would hint at going the other way, but Boulton was dressed to face his old team and cancel Cam Janssen. (Neither Boulton or Janssen were factors, with Boulton getting six shifts (3:25) in the first period and a half.) Finley spent time next to Matt Carkner, which was unfair to both.
Evgeni Nabokov made a couple of fantastic saves in the first half to keep it close. The Islanders never quite tested Martin Brodeur the same way, though Brad Boyes hit the post on a nice drive to the net. The Isles were outshot 9-3 in the first and 12-7 in the second, but by the mid-way point a pretty lethargic game picked up some life as the Devils scored the first goal on an awful Islanders line change.
Marty Reasoner -- another candidate to sit for Cizikas -- iced the puck, and the ensuing faceoff created a rushed line change that the Devils took advantage of to create a 3-on-1, Henrik Tallinder brilliantly snapping a stretch patch to Ilya Kovalchuk, who delicately fed Travis Zajac over a sprawled Mark Streit.
Travis Hamonic tied it briefly after the Devils hilariously got four bodies caught in the corner to leave a hungry, hungry Hamonic pleading for a pass in the slot. Once that pass was received, he beat Brodeur glove side.
Just over a minute later, David Clarkson scored on a screened shot that Nabokov did not appear to pick up. One-goal deficit returned, and that was that. The Islanders' late push to tie was reminiscent of last season.
- Boyes had a nice debut and Nabokov was sharp, but overall the players who saw action during the lockout looked more in form than those who sat.
- Of the newcomers, Keith Aucoin showed some skill and could be useful on either of the bottom two lines as well as the powerplay. Colin McDonald not as much so. Brian Strait was steady next to Mark Streit; Finley left more to be desired and was turned around way to easily by Steve Bernier.
- The Islanders had chances to match lines a little better -- get Tavares away from the Zajac line, or mix combos up to take advantage of New Jersey's lower lines -- but didn't experiment much. The Devils were organized but hardly intimidating, and this is a team the Isles will need to take points from if they want to make noise.
- Jack Capuano missed the game due to kidney stones.
- The powerplay, and many other aspects, looked rusty as you might expect. Unlike several games on the NHL's opening day, this one was short on entertainment.
On the bright side, it was a sellout crowd at the Coliseum. Here's hoping the home team delivers a better show on Monday afternoon.