The New York Islanders sought their third straight win on Tuesday night in Brooklyn, where they took on the Arizona Coyotes, the last remaining winless hockey team in the NHL.
John Tavares made sure they stayed winless. He made the Barclays Center rain hats, scoring three times to lead his team to a 5-3 victory.
The Islanders returned to a standard roster construction of 12 forwards and six defensemen after brief experimentation with seven blueliners last week.
A little more than four minutes into the game, resident Dane Anders Lee was dinged for a tripping penalty. The Islanders won the initial faceoff on the penalty kill but were never able to clear the zone. Clayton Keller sent a shot on net from the perimeter and Anthony Duclair pounced on the rebound and gave the Coyotes a 1-0 lead. Halak had no chance.
No sweat yet though, as Arizona entered the contest 0-5-1 this season when scoring first. No, I don’t know how that’s possible.
The best New York scoring opportunity in the first period came on a Casey Cizikas slot one-timer, which Louis Domingue coolly smothered.
But soon after, the Isles D-corps threw a house party in the penalty box, with Adam Pelech gaining admittance via a holding penalty and Scott Mayfield via a cross-check. The Islanders had a 5-on-3 penalty kill, then Cizikas proceeded to lose his stick, his glove and perhaps his identity too, to give Arizona effectively a 5-on-2 opportunity. The Yotes had over a minute of zone time and several shot attempts, but could not score. Someone please buy dinners for Johnny Boychuk, Calvin de Haan, Halak and Cizikas.
The Islanders didn’t score in the period and the possession numbers were lopsided in the Coyotes’ favor, mostly due to the penalties committed.
Jordan Eberle! John Tavares! First-line scoring!
After Anders Lee forced a turnover in the corner of the offensive zone, Eberle dealt a cross-crease pass to the captain, who deflected the puck with elevation to beat Domingue and tie the game for the Isles early in the second period.
The New York offense seemed to resemble a power play with all its chances throughout the early part of the period. Once on an actual power play, the Isles failed to get set up and didn’t score, however. Go figure.
Later in the period, with 5:31 remaining in the game, the captain was at it again. Eberle entered the zone with speed on the outside and dealt the puck to Pelech. Pelech threw the puck to Tavares back door, and the Islanders took a 2-1 lead.
When the Islanders are at their best, they impose their will on the forecheck. That happened in the second period. New York completely dominated Arizona in the corners and along the boards.
Toward the end of the period, The Coyotes had some scoring opportunities snuffed out by Halak. The bottom-6 was pretty poor all night, save for Cizikas and Brock Nelson.
Woof. Halak surrendered a soft one early in the third period, when Arizona winger Mario Kempe sniped him on the rush from a weak angle to tie the game, 2-2.
The Islanders earned a power play after Tavares was corkscrewed by a Coyote stick in front of the net. On the man-up, Nelson made the desert team pay, burying a shot off of Alex Goligoski’s stick and into the bottom-left corner of the net. He’s been really solid throughout October.
Observation: Matthew Barzal is a joy to watch play hockey. He really is. But he has to slow it with the cross-ice home run passes and maintain possession sometimes. Passing it through four defensive sticks may work in the lower levels, but in the NHL it’s a different game.
The Coyotes fought back again, knotting the game at 3-3 after a nifty deflection by Nick Cousins off a Keller shot. Not really anything Halak could do on it, it was just the product of sustained zone time and an inability to clear the crease.
New Observation: HOLY SH... uh... BARZAL! Man, the kid can dangle. He went straight at, and through, Oliver Ekman-Larsson and nearly scored on Domingue with 9:53 left in the third.
Tavares notched his 7th hat trick of the career on a stunning deflection, through the five-hole of Coyotes defenseman Jason Demers and into the net. This man is suddenly on pace for 82 points this season after a couple weeks of oft-discussed musings over his decline in production.
With just under 3 minutes to play, Scott Mayfield added one more goal for good measure, slapping in a one-timer nearside off a pass from Tavares, who had his first four-point night since February 14, 2015 against Columbus.
Islanders player of the game
Shocking news: John Tavares is still good at hockey. The top line was a threat to score every since time they touched the ice today. Tavares scored three times, drew a penalty, and led all Islanders players in on-ice shot attempt differential. Maybe the trade rumors will slow a little this week . After five straight scoreless nights, Tavares has seven points in his last two.
Coyotes player of the game
Clayton Keller was a real playmaker for the Coyotes. Aside from the two assists, the 1998-born center was making toe-drags and slick passes throughout the game. Visibly dynamic. The Coyotes are absolutely loaded with young talent and Keller is certainly part of that.
Stat of the game
1 - Number of goals by New York Islanders defensemen this season after Scott Mayfield scored late in the third period.
GIF of the game
On Thursday night, the Islanders will be playing in Saint Paul to face the Wild at the Xcel Energy Center at 8 p.m. Eastern Time.