The Nassau Coliseum may not be a safe place for the New York Islanders after all - at least as far as home openers are concerned.
The Islanders, involved in a sticky court suit to get out of their lease at the Coliseum, opened the season with a 4-3 loss at home to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday night.
It was the first regular-season game for the Islanders since management filed a lawsuit against arena management for constructive eviction, claiming that Nassau Coliseum was unsafe.
The focus of the lawsuit was on the hoist system that holds the scoreboard over center ice. The system has been replaced, but New York defenseman Scott Lachance revealed that something did fall to the ice during the game.
"Something dropped from the scoreboard during the first period," Lachance said. "I think it was a washer."
Because of the dispute there were no pregame ceremonies, which surprised some of the players.
"We were expecting some sort of presentation," the Islanders' Kenny Jonsson said. "I was surprised when there wasn't any. We found out about an hour before the game that there wouldn't be any."
The Islanders announced a turnstile crowd of 11,457 for the game. It marked only the fourth time the Islanders started at home in their 27-year history. They lost to Atlanta in 1972, and beat Boston in 1980 and Florida in the lockout-shortened 1994-95 season.
The Islanders trailed the Penguins by four goals and never caught up.
"I'm always worried about the first period of a home opener," Islanders coach Mike Milbury said. "We fell into a hole and we just couldn't get out of it."
The hole was dug by three Pittsburgh goals in a 72-second span. Jaromir Jagr started the scoring at 4:50 on a power-play slap shot from the right circle that deflected off an Islander defenseman and past goalie Tommy Salo. Robert Lang scored on a tap-in 52 seconds later, and 20 seconds after that, Alexsey Morozov batted in a rebound.
"In those first ten minutes, we were running around, looking like 20 rookies," New York defenseman Bryan Berard said. "Once we settled down and played our positions, we played better."
Pittsburgh extended the lead to 4-0 when Brad Werenka's bouncing slap shot got past Salo at 18:04.
New York started to come back when Jonsson scored from the right point with 8.1 seconds left in the period. And in the second period, captain Trevor Linden starred.
Linden scored two power-play goals in the period to give the Islanders a chance. He beat Penguins goalie Tom Barrasso at 5:03 with a tip-in from the low slot, and then backhanded a rebound in at 16:58.
Linden had two chances in the third period to tie the game, but Barrasso rejected him. Linden had only two practices under his belt after missing training camp in a contract dispue.
"I felt all right out there," Linden said. "I have to work on getting some of my timing back, but that will come shortly."
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