Even in the toughest of times over the years, the New York Islanders have often found healing elixir in the form of beating their city rivals. Saturday as they came out of a bye break looking for a fresh reboot after a terrible December and just one win thus far in 2018, the Islanders again found relief: a right proper demolition of the Rangers in front of their home organist and assorted fans at Madison Square Garden.
The headline is rookie Mathew Barzal’s five-point afternoon — his second such tally in his 45 NHL games. The two-goal, three-assist night also brought Barzal’s season rate up to a point per game, with 44.
The game also featured the NHL debut of Michael Dal Colle — who did what coach Doug Weight wanted in terms of overall play in 13 minutes — but it also added another significant name to a growing injury list: Casey Cizikas left the game after a follow-through on a shot got him on the hand or wrist, and Weight indicated the center will be out for a while.
Still, it was a welcome and overdue sight: The Isles playing pretty well again, their high-octane offense featuring in a game where they were not also bleeding goals. Their counterattacks were quick and deadly, the backchecking necessitated by their aggressive play was present and energetic.
Ninth straight start for Halak in which he's faced at least 35 shots. Score effects helping today, but that's a lot of frozen rubber. 36 saves here with 9:21 to go.— Arthur Staple (@StapeNewsday) January 13, 2018
They still conceded 39 shots on goal — just another busy outing for Jaroslav Halak — and may have benefited from throwing the first five goals from their total 37 shots on Ondrej Pavelec instead of Hernik Lundqvist. But they got off on the right foot and built a secure lead through the middle period.
Anthony Beauvillier, who also scored two goals and continued to show life after his latest and brief AHL stint, opened scoring six minutes into the first period. Though Kevin Hayes tied it for the Rangers eight minutes later -- Brock Nelson misreading and leaving things wide open in front of the net on the penalty kill — that was the closest the home team ever had to wresting back control of the game.
Shane Prince got the Isles lead back late in the first with a breakaway on his first goal of the season as Kevin Shattenkirk applied his trademark defensive pressure...
... then Beauvillier and Barzal combined for the only three goals of the middle period.
So it was 5-1 entering the third period. Even for teams that had traded a combined 51 shots through the first 40 minutes, the outcome no longer appeared in any doubt. Halak still made a few more big saves in the third to build off others earlier in the game. But Mika Zibanejad didn’t add the next goal until nine minutes into the final period.
Thomas Hickey and Cal Clutterbuck then piled on with goals in the final four minutes, each of them giving second assists to Barzal to wrap up his five-point day. Overall, the Islanders had seven even strength goals, mostly from that Barzal line which had Beauvillier in Andrew Ladd’s place. (And Clutterbuck’s of course came with Barzal at center as the Isles filled in for Cizikas.
A bit of difficulty replacing the injured Josh Bailey on John Tavares’ line though:
Alan Quine somehow was -5 corsi in that— garik16 (@garik16) January 13, 2018
Quotes of Fun
“Goal 1, 3 and 4 we have numbers there. We just don’t check. ... Their Barzal line just dominated Mika’s line the whole game. I got three top players there and they were just dominated.”
>>Alain Vigneault in the sad post-game
Halak in form:
“He came up with big save after big save. He was absolutely in charge of his game. Having him back there playing the way he did, it’s exciting.”
>>Weight on Halak, who definitely played his part in the 7-2 outcome
On the overall game:
“It was a great 20-man win today. A great road win. How many breakouts we had from underneath the puck, guys sprinting back. We worked at it. We worked as a unit today. It was really good.”
On Beauvillier, who found new life in Andrew Ladd’s spot on the Barzal-Jordan Eberle line:
“Anthony has been a different person. His face, his confidence. He feels like a different player.”
The Islanders head to Montreal for a game on Monday, part of a back-to-back that continues in New Jersey the next night. Overall, the Isles have six games in the next 11 days as they head into the All-Star Break.