The New York Islanders didn’t come away with a victory last night. What they did come away with, was a look at what could be on display for the future.
J.G. Pageau, the newest Islander after he was acquired Monday morning from the Ottawa Senators in exchange for three future draft picks and then signed shortly thereafter to a six-year, $30-million contract, starred in one of the most memorable debuts for the team in recent memory.
“He’s as advertised,” head coach Barry Trotz said about Pageau to reporters following the game.
Pageau started the game on the third line with Michael Dal Colle and Josh Bailey, and his presence could immediately be felt. That trio was one of the best all night for the Isles until all hell broke loose.
Late in the second period right after he recorded his first goal — one that helped the Isles finally solve Rangers goalie Alexander Georgiev after they’d been buzzing all night — Pageau sent a pass to Dal Colle who was caught with his head down, thus taking a ferocious hit up high from Rangers d-man Jacob Trouba. Pageau then went right after Trouba, standing up for his teammate. In that one moment, he endeared himself to his teammates and the hearts of the fans who jam-packed Nassau Coliseum.
“He’s standing up for teammates right away,” teammate Brock Nelson said. “He hasn’t been here long, but guys have respected him before, he’s going to fit right in.”
Pageau himself also knew he had to something for his new club.
“I want to prove that I want to be part of the family and be part of that group,” he said about the incident. “You saw Bails dropped his gloves right away too. I think it just shows how guys care for one another here.”
Pageau received a five-minute major, ten-minute misconduct and two-minute instigator penalty for his response to Dal Colle going down. But that didn’t matter. The fans still serenaded him with “Pageau, Pageau, Pageau!” chants ala the “Ole” chants he would receive when he played in Ottawa.
As the Islanders rallied to force overtime without Pageau, Dal Colle and d-man Andy Greene — who went shoulder first into the boards in the first period — Pageau was set to come back out for the extra session. He wouldn’t get his chance as the Rangers’ Mika Zibanejad would win the game on a booming slapper that beat Isles goalie Semyon Varlamov just 28 seconds into overtime.
Even with the stinging defeat, Pageau’s night couldn’t have been a better introduction. He was all over the ice, winning face-offs, engaged in the play and showed his physical nature despite his 5’10 frame.
“He made a great first impression on all of us,” veteran Josh Bailey said. “We already knew what he could bring to the table, but I think our fans for sure got a glimpse of it tonight.”
“Here’s a player, we wanted him, we got him for the next six years. He’s impactful, you see how he changes our team in so many ways. You saw how he stepped up. What a great pickup by Lou (Lamoriello). The picks (we gave up in the trade) are nothing, I can tell you that — a lot of picks never play. You’ve got a solid guy who fits right in the hockey team. You saw the character, how he plays. Glad he’s on our side,“ Trotz added.
Looking beyond last night, no one knows how the next six years will play out for Pageau and the Isles. But on his first night in orange and blue, he showed a glimpse of what he will mean to the organization moving forward.