UNIONDALE, N.Y. – Goalie Josh Tordjman stopped 23 of the 26 shots he faced in his NHL debut, but the New York Islanders beat the Coyotes 3-2 on Sunday afternoon at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
Tordjman, recalled Wednesday from the team’s top affiliate in San Antonio after the Coyotes traded Mikael Tellqvist to the Buffalo Sabres, did not allow a goal in the first or third periods, but the surging Islanders netted three against the 24-year-old netminder in the second period and held on to win.
Scottie Upshall and Shane Doan scored for the Coyotes, and Matthew Lombardi had two primary assists. Upshall’s goal was his second in three games since be acquiring from Philadelphia on Wednesday.
Upshall played on a line with Lombardi and Petr Prucha, both of whom also came to the Coyotes in separate trades on Wednesday. The line played extremely well, and Coyotes Head Coach Wayne Gretzky noticed.
“Their work ethic is what it’s all about,” Gretzky said. “Those three guys played their hearts out every shift. That’s the way the game of hockey is supposed to be played.”
The Coyotes went 0 for 7 on power plays, including two five-on-three opportunities. The first of those came late in the first period with the Coyotes leading 1-0. Gretzky said adding a goal at that point would have changed the complexion of the game.
"I just really believe you should score on every five-on-three (situation)," Gretzky said. “And we continuously can’t score on a five-on-three.”
Phoenix’s first goal came at 15:50 of the first period and capped a slick puck exchange between Prucha, Lombardi and Upshall. Prucha started the play by making a nice tip pass from the neutral zone to Lombardi streaking up the right side. Lombardi took control of the puck in stride and fed Upshall across the slot, and Upshall ripped the puck past Islanders goalie Yann Danis with ease.
“I am getting an opportunity to play and I am getting a chance to play with some good players,” Upshall said. “…I’m excited to be here. I think there is great opportunity for our team here in Phoenix and I am looking forward to winning some games.”
The Islanders scored three goals in the second period to seize control of the game.
It’s very disappointing not to come out with two points here tonight but it feels good to get my first game in.” - Josh Tordjman
Jeff Tambellini evened the score at 1 when he poked a rebound past Tordjman at 2:44 after Tordjman had stopped the first nine shots he faced in the NHL.
New York took a 2-1 lead midway through the middle period. Tordjman made a pad save on a shot by Mike Iggulden from the top of the right circle, but the puck bounced directly to Josh Bailey and he beat Tordjman easily with a shot from the left.
The Islanders scored their third goal with just 37 seconds left in the second period when Kyle Okposo ripped the puck over Tordjman’s blocker and just under the bar from between the circles.
“It’s very disappointing not to come out with two points here tonight but it feels good to get my first game in,” Tordjman said. “I was pretty nervous there in the first period. I think movement-wise I felt better in the second, but things didn’t go as well. I’ve got to play 60 minutes and tonight I don’t think my performance was (for) 60 minutes… I think maybe that first goal got to me a little bit. ”
Doan cut New York’s lead to 3-2 with 19 seconds left in the third period, but it was too little too late.
The coaching staff did not tell Tordjman he was starting the game until Saturday night.
"I was having dinner … and they called me to tell me," Tordjman said. "I called my parents, then spent the rest of the time thinking about the first drop of the puck."
The Coyotes thought they had scored a goal with 5:23 to play, but video review ruled Islanders forward Andy Hilbert knocked the net off one of its moorings before the puck crossed the goal line.
After watching the replay on the scoreboard above the ice, Gretzky did not argue the call.
“Obviously, it was the right call,” Gretzky said. “That’s why they have video replay now that they can go to (and) check things like that … In the old days they probably would have counted it as a goal because the referee signaled clearly that he thought it was in. But that’s what we have the video for and they get it right.”
With the victory, the Islanders finished a six-game homestand with a 4-1-1 record.
"Our work ethic is there,” Bailey told reporters, regarding New York’s hot streak. "We're working hard, and we're putting on back pressure. It also helps that we have great goaltending and a great defense
Danis made 40 saves, including 16 in the third period.
• Tordjman made his first NHL save at 1:50 when Islanders forward Sean Bergenheim took a shot while New York was killing a penalty.
• Coyotes defenseman Zbynek Michalek led both teams with eight shots on goal.
• Lombardi won 19 of 28 faceoffs. Steven Reinprecht won 9 of 11.
• All five goals were even-strength goals.
• The Islanders are in danger of having no player score 20 goals for the first time in the franchise's 37 seasons.
• The Islanders are 9-2-2 in their last 13 home games.
• Defenseman David Hale, and forwards Peter Mueller, Joakim Lindstrom, Martin Hanzal and Brandon Prust were Phoenix’s scratches. The Islanders scratched Forwards Trent Hunter, Richard Park, Nate Thompson and defenseman Brendan Witt (suspended).
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