The Islanders gave Bryan Berard a shot. It's a good thing they did, because the team's newest acquisition scored on his only shot of the game, providing what proved to be the game-winner in Wednesday night's 2-1 victory over the Rangers.
Berard, who played for parts of two seasons at Columbus for Gerard Gallant - now an assistant coach under Ted Nolan - paid his own way to attend the Islanders' training camp and impressed enough for the team to release Fred Meyer and sign Berard to a one-year deal. Meyer was since claimed on waivers by Phoenix.
The Islanders dressed seven defensemen with Berard, which meant a big cut in playing time for Sean Bergenheim, Richard Park, Josef Vasicek and Jeff Tambellini, called up to replace Jon Sim, who looks to be out for the year with a knee injury. Nolan, however, said after the game that the team will likely continue the 7-man rotation for the time being and deal with the ice-time juggling.
Berard's goal on a 5-on-3 late in the second period showed why he can be a valuable addition, especially on the power play. Berard took a pass from Bill Guerin and rifled a slap shot from the top of the left circle, beating Henrik Lundquist high on the glove side.
The goal gave the Islanders a 2-1 lead after two, remarkable considering how the Rangers took it to the Islanders in the middle period. Fedor Tyutin scored for the Rangers 2:10 into the period to tie the score at 1-1, and from then on, the Rangers controlled the play, and the home team was fortunate to have a lead entering the third.
The Islanders had taken a 1-0 lead with just 3.5 seconds left in the first period, scoring on the rare 3-on-3 situation. Faceoff specialist Mike Sillinger won the draw and got the puck to Marc-Andre Bergeron, who was unguarded in the circle. The defensive lapse cost the Rangers, as Bergeron's stiff wrister beat Lundquist short side.
While Berard's goal (his first as an Islander since 1998) was the feel-good story, the most valuable player was Rick DiPietro, who made 36 saves and helped keep Jagr, Gomez and Drury off the scoresheet. D.P. made several big stops from in close in the first period and then again in the third as the Isles killed two two-man disadvantages, one early and one late. The Rangers have yet to score a POWER PLAY GOAL! this season and are 0-for-16 in man-up situations. Ouch.
The Rangers pulled the goalie and had a few good chances late. Sillinger won another key draw with 17 seconds left, allowing Hunter to clear away the Blueshirts' final opportunity. Once again, Brendan Witt sacrificed his body with five blocked shots, keying a solid all-around defensive effort.
The 3-1 Islanders hit the road for three games beginning Thursday night in Toronto.