David Clarkson scored the go-ahead goal midway through the third period, as the reigning Eastern Conference champion New Jersey Devils opened their season with a 2-1 victory over the New York Islanders on Saturday at Nassau Coliseum.
Travis Zajac, fresh off signing a long-term deal earlier this week, also tallied a goal, while Martin Brodeur turned away 18 shots for the Devils, who made a thrilling run to the Stanley Cup Finals last season before losing to the Los Angeles Kings in six games.
"We played well," Brodeur remarked. "We blocked a lot of shots. We kept them pretty much to the outside. For a first game it was definitely nice."
Travis Hamonic registered a power play goal in the setback, while Evgeni Nabokov notched 26 saves for the Islanders, who finished last season at the bottom of the Atlantic Division standings for the fifth consecutive year.
With New Jersey holding a 1-0 lead early in the third, Devils defenseman Henrik Tallinder was whistled for hooking. Following a scrum in the right corner, the puck popped free to a wide-open Hamonic in the slot and the defenseman beat Brodeur with a wrister high to the glove side to knot the game, 1-1, at the 7:12 mark.
Clarkson's answer came just over a minute later, as he wristed one on goal from the top of the right circle and the puck snuck through a screen and slipped through the five-hole of Nabokov to put New Jersey back in front.
An interference call against Ilya Kovalchuk late in the third provided the Islanders with the man advantage, but Brodeur stood tall between the pipes to maintain New Jersey's one-goal lead and the Devils held on for the victory.
After a scoreless first period, New Jersey took advantage of a sloppy line change from the Islanders late in the second period for the game's first goal.
From his own zone, Tallinder sprung Kovalchuk with a long pass to the offensive blue line. Kovalchuk then flipped a pass to the low right side to a cutting Zajac, who deflected it over a sprawling Nabokov for a 1-0 lead with just under six minutes left in the second stanza.
"It's not the way that we wanted to start in front of our fans," Hamonic admitted. "We came out, in my opinion, a little bit flat. We just weren't executing at the start."