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Rapid Reaction: Flames Burn New York Islanders in UBS Arena Opener

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New York Islanders

ELMONT, N.Y. — The New York Islanders dropped their fifth consecutive game on Saturday in a 5-2 loss to the Calgary Flames in New York’s home opener at UBS Arena. The Islanders are now 5-7-2 after the loss to Calgary.

How it Happened:  The Calgary Flames spoiled the New York Islanders home opener at their new arena. Calgary was first to find the back of the net early in the game.

Brad Richardson became the first player to score at UBS Arena when he found the back of the net 4:05 into the game. Matt Martin committed an egregious turnover in his own end that allowed Richardson the opportunity to put the puck past Semyon Varlamov. Calgary added to their lead at the 13:18 mark of the first when Noah Hanifin fired a shot from the point that hit off Andrew Mangiapane and went into the net to make it 2-1.

The Islanders were able to cut the lead in half when Brock Nelson scored his first of the game and the first Islanders goal at their new home. Richard Panik was able to center the puck to Nelson in front of the net. Nelson put the puck under the crossbar.

Calgary went back up by two goals 6:43 into the second period after Mangiapane redirected a second shot from the point. The goal was his 14th of the season for Calgary.

Nelson added his second goal of the night to pull the Islanders back within one. The goal was nearly identical to his first and made it a 3-2 game 1:49 into the final frame.

Calgary sealed the win with a pair of empty net goals in the closing minutes of the third. Trevor Lewis scored at 18:45 of the third and Johnny Gaudreau added another less than a minute later.

Varlamov made 26 saves in the loss for the Islanders.

WATCH: New York Islanders Fans Belt National Anthem Ahead of UBS Opener

History Repeats Itself: The New York Islanders found themselves in a similar spot that they did after their first game at the Nassau Coliseum in 1972. The then-Atlanta Flames defeated the Islanders 3-2 as Morris Stefaniw was the first to score at the brand new home of the Islanders.

“Obviously not the result we wanted to come out for the home opener,” Nelson said. “Get a win, do it for the fans and all the guys we were missing, and all the guys that stepped up to fill some holes. A little bit of adversity for us right now, but I thought we a pretty good game.”

Even with Saturday’s loss, the game was a major milestone for the Islanders organization. It was the culmination of three-plus decades worth of effort to try and build a state-of-the-art home for the team. The $1.1 billion venue still had some minor imperfections on Saturday, but had been completed on time despite a brief stoppage during the COVID-19 Pandemic.

“It’s huge. We have a home now,” Scott Mayfield said. “We’ve kind of talked about it leading up to it, just what guys have gone through as far as Brooklyn. The split seasons, the Coliseum, closing out the Coliseum twice. All of that stuff. It’s special to be home.”

Young Guys Get a Chance: The New York Islanders had a pair of players making their NHL debuts and another few stepping into bigger roles with five NHL regulars sidelined due to COVID protocol and injury. Grant Hutton and Robin Salo appeared in their first NHL contest after being called up on Saturday following three more Islander players forced into COVID protocol.

Sebastian Aho also found himself back in the lineup and Kieffer Bellows and Oliver Wahlstrom were moved into top-six roles against the Calgary Flames. Salo led the Islanders skaters in ice time with 21:42 , which included 4:14 of power play time. It certainly wasn’t the exact way the Islanders had hoped to pen the building, but the infusion of some of the players that New York had in Bridgeport appeared to add some spark to the lineup.

“Guys that came in were outstanding,” Islanders coach Barry Trotz said. “Robin Salo’s first game on defense. Grant Hutton did a really good job. … What I liked about our team is we played a little bit more to the Islander identity that I’m used to, what the fans are used to and what we expect organizationally. And what we expect from ourselves.”

Brovember Returns: Brock Nelson’s two goal night was his second multi-goal game this season and first one he has had since a four goal night he had in Montreal earlier this month. The Islanders offense has lagged over their current five game skid and they need production out of the likes of Nelson and other key top-six forwards.

Nelson appeared to answer the call with New York missing Anders Lee and Josh Bailey. That will be crucial depending on how long Lee and Bailey are stuck in COVID protocol.

Up Next: The New York Islanders will host the Toronto Maple Leafs at 7:30 p.m. at UBS Arena.

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