While the New York Islanders get ready for the 2019-20 season, they look begin with a memorable win. In their history, they have really struggled on opening night. They come with a record of 12-26-8, but have definitely played some unforgettable games with potential superstars playing for the first time.
Let’s take a look back at the five most noteworthy Islanders’ opening games.
5. Oct. 4, 2018, at Carolina Hurricanes
Little did hockey fans know that the opening night game between the Islanders and the Carolina Hurricanes would feature two surprising teams that would face off in the second round of the NHL Playoffs. While the Hurricanes would earn a sweep in the playoffs, the Islanders earned the two points on opening night.
In the first game of the post-John Tavares era, the Islanders got a spectacular performance from their goalie Thomas Greiss in a 2-1 overtime win. In his first appearance with his new club, Valtteri Filppula scored the first goal of the season to make it 1-0.
Greiss came within nearly a minute and a half of a shutout but gave up a goal with the Hurricanes’ net empty with 1:35 to go off a deflection from the stick of Jordan Staal. However, up a man in overtime, Josh Bailey scored the overtime winner on an assist from Mat Barzal for the teams’ first of 48 wins that season. Greiss made 44 saves in what was a career year for him as well as both he and his partner Robin Lehner.
4. Oct. 7, 1976, at Philadelphia Flyers
The Islanders opened up the 1976-77 season with the reigning two-time Stanley Cup Champions in the Philadelphia Flyers. The two teams met in the 1975 Playoffs with the Flyers winning the series in seven games.
After a scoreless first period on opening night, the Islanders scored two goals in the second and one in the third for a 3-0 win. Billy MacMillan, Billy Harris and Denis Potvin scored the three goals and goaltender Glenn “Chico” Resch earned the shutout stopping all 25 shots by the Flyers. The Islanders eventually lost to the Montreal Canadiens in the playoffs, as they went on to start their incredible dynasty right before the Islanders started their own by each winning four-straight Stanley Cups over the next eight seasons.
3. Oct. 4, 2009, vs. Pittsburgh Penguins
Though many fans are still not over the fact of Tavares leaving Long Island, when he was playing for the Islanders, he was a fan-favorite. After being the top pick in the NHL draft during the summer of 2009, Tavares made his debut against another former first overall pick in Sidney Crosby.
Despite the outcome not going the Islanders’ way, it was definitely a historic night with Tavares scoring his first career goal and assist. Crosby and Mark Streit began the scoring with goals in the first period for their respective teams with Tavares earning an assist on the goal with a two-man advantage.
In the second period, Tavares picked up a loose puck in the crease and shot a backhand into the net past Marc-Andre Fleury for his first to give the Islanders a 2-1 lead. Trent Hunter scored what seemed like the game-winning goal in the third, but was bookended by goals from former Islander Ruslan Fedotenko and future Islander Mark Eaton in the third period for the Penguins.
Kris Letang and Crosby scored in the shootout, as Tavares missed his chance and the Pittsburgh Penguins earned a hard-fought 4-3 win on a night when hockey fans were introduced to their next great superstar.
2. Oct. 12, 1985, at Los Angeles Kings
In what was the first game being played after the Islanders lost the in the 1984 Stanley Cup Final to the Edmonton Oilers (and seeing their 19 straight series wins come to an end), they played one of their most dramatic games of the season opening night against the Los Angeles Kings.
The Islanders trailed 2-0 after 22 minutes of play but scored three-straight goals in the second started by Mike Bossy on the power play. Pat Lafontaine tied the game up and then Mikko Makela, playing in his first NHL game, scored his first goal to give his team their first lead of the night.
The game would go to overtime as the two teams traded goals in the third period before Jim Fox completed a hat-trick with for the Kings. In the extra session, the Islanders had three future Hall of Fame players on the ice, and Bryan Trottier scored the game winner on assists from Bossy and Potvin.
1. Oct. 7, 1972, vs. Atlanta Flames
It all began for the Islanders in 1972 with their first-ever regular-season game as a franchise. While they lost the game 3-2, they were able to score their first career goal from Ed Westfall.
Westfall’s goal tied the game up at one, but the Flames scored two goals in the third and despite a goal from Harris, the Islanders went on to lose the game. Their first win would come five days later versus the Kings as they were able to erase a third-period deficit for a 3-2 win.
2019-20 Season Opener
The Islanders first opponent will be the Washington Capitals on Friday, Oct. 4 at 7 p.m. Both teams finished at the top of the Metropolitan Division and will look to continue that success into the new year. For the Capitals, it will be their second game of the season, as they play the St. Louis Blues Wednesday night.
Matt Rothman is a 2018 graduate from Florida Gulf Coast University receiving his bachelor degree in journalism. Originally from Long Island, he moved to Parkland shortly after high school. Matt worked as the assistant sports editor for his school paper, eaglenews.com in college becoming just one of nine students in his graduation class to serve over 1,000 community service hours. His goal is to travel to every Major League Baseball stadium, and has been to multiple US Open finals.