The Doug Weight era began the way the Jack Capuano era ended: With a Thomas Greiss shutout in a close but ultimately comfortable New York Islanders win.
Except this one was different, of course, as you knew it would be.
Instead of benefiting from a five-minute spurt that changed the game as they did in Monday’s 4-0 win in Boston, Capuano’s last as Islanders head coach, Weight’s debut in that role featured consistent Isles pressure throughout, though the goals were slow in coming.
Kari Lehtonen kept it close with 33 saves, and the Isles pulled away in the final minutes for a 3-0 win. Though the Isles had the better of play throughout, Greiss was solid, and key at several points, including a late Stars power play that could have tied the game.
How They Scored
Like every significant milestone this decade should, the beginning of the Doug Weight Era was marked by John Tavares, Weight’s tenant back in his final playing days, who scored at 13:31 of the first period on an inside-out move after being fed from the corner by Anders Lee.
Then he put an exclamation point on a big night for the Isles with a shorthanded breakaway goal — his first-ever shortie -- on a slow-motion break after both teams were exhausted from an exchange of chances.
Calvin de Haan finished scoring with a You Bet I Can 200-foot empty-net goal with four seconds left.
How They Played
To get their offensive motor going, the Islanders had the benefit of many power plays, several of them earned, a couple of them gifts from the officials. Among the former was a four-minute high-sticking penalty on Jamie Benn (bloodied victim: Casey Cizikas) that erased a poor call against Alan Quine.
That power play wasn’t very good, but when it was over 18 of the Isles’ 32 shots on goal by the midway point of the third period were thanks to the power play.
The second period in particular was a session of all-out pressure from the Isles, who had three power plays and outshot the Stars 16-5 in the frame.
The Turning Point
The Stars only had three power plays, and the Isles did well in killing them. But things could’ve easily been tied 1-1 with less than five minutes left in regulation when Tyler Seguin ripped a shot off the crossbar.
Within the same power play, the Isles had a shorthanded 3-on-1 where they forced it to Tavares and play went the other way for a Stars 2-on-1, followed by a turnover and Tavares’ shorthanded breakaway, scored as an exhausted captain was able to stay a step ahead of an even more exhausted Radek Faksa.
New Boss, Same as...Wait Not the Same as the Old Boss?
Among the standouts on a night where everyone appeared to have that new-coach energy: Alan Quine and Shane Prince made dizzying moves and takeaways, Jason Chimera was the Ice Cheetah we were told about over the summer, and Tavares and his linemates were in Mach Tavares form.
The power play, too — ironically — looked creative and alive most of the night. Ironic, because Weight has long been in charge of the power play and it has had its struggles. Technically it struggled tonight too, with no conversions on eight opportunities. But as mentioned, the shots and looks were there, from both the first and second units.
What Does It All Mean?
Seriously, the Isles looked quite good and active. But that’s to be expected after a jolt like a coaching change — and what’s more, with the replacement coming from in-house they didn’t have to strip all their systems away and start from square one, feeling things out.
To my eye the forwards came back for outlets better, and supported each other through the neutral zone better, but the Isles could always do that at their best. At this point the best we can say with certainty is they were focused, as you’d expect.
Hickey said not much changed systematically. 'Just maybe fed off some extra energy. We played fast' #isles— Andy Graziano (@AndyGraz_SNY) January 20, 2017
And Kari Lehtonen was the reason the Isles didn’t have a sizable lead in the third period, so that’s a credit to the Isles offense. But the Stars defense is notoriously porous — they were coming off a 7-6 win in Manhattan — so such a performance was reasonably expected against a team that has disappointed nearly as much as the Isles this year.
It at least wasn’t a letdown. It at least showed the talent some believe this team does have, if deployed correctly. If nothing else, it’s going to be fun to watch how this evolves over the rest of the season.
If you watched on TV via the MSG+ feed, you were no doubt thankful for DVR. The feed had issues all night with getting replays and, at one point, with intermission audio from Shannon Hogan and Rick DiPietro.
For whatever dumb reason, after de Haan’s empty net goal with four seconds left, Antoine Roussel jumped Shane Prince at the center-ice faceoff. Prince was chatting him up, but Roussel’s history shows any taunting was likely warranted.
The six-game homestand continues Saturday with another Western foe in town, this time the Los Angeles Kings.