Matt Donovan scored his first career goal, Peter Regin netted his first as an Islander, John Tavares came within inches of his fifth career hat trick and Josh Bailey earned first star of the game honors with one goal and two assists as the Islanders beat the Phoenix Coyotes 6-1 Tuesday at Nassau Coliseum.
“Our guys played hard tonight,” said head coach Jack Capuano. “You get rewarded for that and you do get bounces. The harder you work, the luckier you get. Our guys played hard and in the third period we stayed on our toes and kept the pressure on.”
Regin’s first goal of the season put the Islanders ahead in the second minute of the game. Brock Nelson forced a turnover in the neutral zone and Regin entered on a 2-on-1, drifting toward Phoenix goaltender Mike Smith and shooting high glove.
At 13:36 of the opening period, the Coyotes’ David Schlemko was penalized for hi-sticking and Antoine Vermette took a delay of game penalty on the ensuing faceoff, resulting in 1:59 of 5-on-3 action for the Islanders. A minute and a half into a the power play, Kyle Okposo worked the puck low to Nielsen, who whipped it across the slot through the defense for a Tavares one-timer, making the score 2-0.
The Islanders added to their lead on a second period power play, when Donovan teed up a shot from the top of the zone. Smith looked to have the puck under control, but it trickled under him and over the goal line to make the score 3-0 at the 11:47 mark.
“It feels great to get the first one,” Donovan said. “I just walked the blue line on the power play, got it through and luckily it trickled in.”
Donovan added that he thought Smith had made the save, and never actually saw the puck cross the line.
“I was on my way back to the bench for a change. I heard everyone celebrate, turned around and saw that it was in.”
Forty-three seconds later, Martin Hanzal put Phoenix on the board with his first of the season. He used time and space to pick the top corner above Nabokov’s glove from just above the faceoff circle.
But the Islanders reclaimed their three-goal cushion two minutes later, with Tavares’ second goal of the night. Attacking the net, the captain tried dishing a hard pass down to Grabner, but the puck glanced off a Coyotes defenseman’s stick and hopped over Smith’s shoulder at the 14:49 mark.
Colin McDonald padded the lead two minutes later on his first goal of the season. Nielsen led a 3-on-2 rush at the blue line and dropped a pass to McDonald, who wristed a shot through Smith’s legs to make the score 5-1.
The Islanders pushed their lead to five midway through the third frame. Grabner chased down an errant pass behind the Coyotes goal and found Bailey, who was attacking the net head on. Bailey took the pass and initiated a tic-tac-toe play with Nielsen, culminating in an easy Bailey tap-in from just outside the crease at 12:19.
“It all started with Grabs,” Bailey said. “I was able to touch it to Fransy and he did the rest. I think anybody in the building could have tapped that one home.”
The trio of Nielsen-Bailey-Grabner has combined for 15 points through three games, but Bailey believes that line still has room for improvement.
“We've been able to contribute, which is nice,” Bailey said. “There's still a long way to go and I think we've got a lot of learning to do together.”
On a late third period power play, Tavares nearly completed the hat trick when Thomas Hickey made an east-west feed to the centerman. Thomas Greiss, who replaced Smith in the Phoenix net for the third period, lunged to save Tavares’ one-timer from going in.
Following the game, Nabokov said he was pleased with the team’s effort to close out the game without allowing the ice to tilt in Phoenix’s favor.
“We talked about it between the periods,” Nabokov said. “Any team at some point of the game is going to have momentum and it comes down to being able to stop their momentum when that happens. Today we were able to do it. This was a good sign for us.”
The Islanders hit the road this weekend for games on back-to-back nights, beginning Friday, Oct. 11 at Chicago. Game time is set for 8:00 ET.
The Islanders 2-0-1 start is their best through three games since 2001-02 (3-0-0) … The Islanders went 2-for-6 on the power play, while the Coyotes finished 0-for-3 on the man advantage … With two goals and four assists, Michael Grabner is tied with Washington’s Alex Ovechkin for the league lead in points … Andrew MacDonald led the Islanders with 23:35 of ice time … The Islanders won the faceoff battle 29-27 … Peter Regin won 9-of-13 draws (69-percent) … Matt Moulson and John Tavares tied for the team lead with five shots on goal apiece … The Islanders have scored in 8-of-9 regulation periods so far this season.
New York Islanders
60 Kevin Poulin
28 Lauri Korpikoski - 63 Mike Ribeiro - 19 Shane Doan
89 Mikkel Boedker - 11 Martin Hanzal - 17 Radim Vrbata
22 Lucas Lessio - 50 Antoine Vermette - 18 David Moss
36 Rob Klinkhammer - 24 Kyle Chipchura - 44 Chris Brown
23 Oliver Ekman-Larsson - 4 Zbynek Michalek
3 Keith Yandle - 26 Michael Stone
6 David Schlemko - 2 David Rundblad
41 Mike Smith
1 Thomas Greiss