Matt Moulson's return to Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum was a resounding success.
The Islanders traded Moulson, a 30-goal scorer in each of the past three full seasons, to the Buffalo Sabres in October for forward Thomas Vanek. Moulson didn't make a visit to the Coliseum with the Sabres before they traded him to the Wild at the NHL Trade Deadline on March 5, the same day the Islanders sent Vanek to the Montreal Canadiens.
He waved his stick to the crowd as he exited the ice after being named the game's first star.
"I was here for a long time and this team had a big place in my heart," said Moulson, who also had an assist for a three-point night. "The fans are great supporters. It was pretty emotional."
Moulson opened the scoring midway through the first period and finished off the rout by firing home a power-play rebound late in the third period, fueling a bounce-back win for the Wild after a 4-1 loss to the Boston Bruins on Monday.
"Anytime a trade happens or something when you switch teams, you have something to prove," said Moulson, who received plenty of cheers from the Coliseum crowd. "I had a lot of family and friends here so I made sure I didn't embarrass them."
Jared Spurgeon, Mikael Granlund, Clayton Stoner and Justin Fontaine also scored for the Wild (36-23-10), who moved closer to a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs; Minnesota holds the first wild-card position in the Western Conference, five points ahead of the Phoenix Coyotes.
Minnesota captain Mikko Koivu had three assists and passed Marian Gaborik to become the Wild's all-time scoring leader with 438 points.
"It's a great feeling. I'm passing Gabby. He's a pretty good scorer, so I did something right," he said.
Goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov made 36 saves in his second appearance since being acquired from the Edmonton Oilers on March 4. It was his second shutout of the season and the 32nd of his career.
Anders Nilsson, one of eight rookies in the Islanders' lineup, stopped 16 shots. New York fell to 10-18-8 at the Coliseum, the worst home record in the NHL.
The Islanders, who've allowed more goals than any team in the NHL, surrendered six to a Minnesota team that came into the game 28th in the NHL scoring at 2.32 goals per game. The Wild set a team single-game high for goals this season and earned a bit of revenge; they blew a 3-0 lead against the Islanders at home on Dec. 29 in a 5-4 loss.
"We had some pretty good chances," New York coach Jack Capuano said. "It just seemed like when we gave them a chance, with the skill that they have, it was in the back of our net."
New York dominated the shot clock in the opening period, outshooting Minnesota 16-6. But the Wild took advantage of some sloppy play by the Islanders in their own zone to score twice.
Moulson opened the scoring 12:23 into the game by doing what he does best, finding the puck and putting it in the net. After Fontaine's forecheck freed the puck and put it on goal, Moulson quickly backhanded a shot from in front of the crease past Nilsson.
The goal came a few minutes after a video tribute to the former Islander that impressed Wild coach Mike Yeo.
"It's obvious that he was very, very well-respected here," Yeo said. "It was very classy of their crowd and reflects what kind of person this is, what he's meant to this organization. I was very happy for him."
Spurgeon, a defenseman drafted by the Islanders in 2008 but never signed, made it 2-0 at 15:57 when he took a pass from Dany Heatley and blasted a shot from the top of the right circle that pinged off the post and into the net. It was his fourth of the season. Nino Niederreiter, traded by the Islanders to Minnesota at the 2013 NHL Draft, had the second assist.
Rookie defenseman Kevin Czuczman, signed by the Islanders as a free agent from Lake Superior State, took a regular turn but had a tough start in his NHL debut; he was on the ice for the first two goals. The Islanders went with five defensemen after Brian Strait left the game in the second period with a broken left hand.
The Wild stifled the Islanders throughout the middle period and added to their lead at 16:02 when Granlund was left by himself for several seconds in the slot; that was more than enough time to take Jason Pominville's pass from behind the net and one-time it past Nilsson for his seventh of the season.
"We just didn't get enough after the first period," forward Kyle Okposo said. "We looked like we stopped playing … It's unacceptable."
Stoner was called for boarding early in the third period, but stepped out of the box in time to take Koivu's pass behind the defense and beat Nilsson on a breakaway for his fourth goal in 224 career games. Fontaine zipped a shot past Nilsson from near the right faceoff dot at 7:06 for his 13th goal of the season and first since Jan. 16.
Moulson capped his return by burying a power-play rebound with 3:26 remaining for his 20th of the season.
"Big two points for us," he said via Twitter (@MMoulson). "...was great to see so many friends and would like to thank the Isles fans for such a warm reception ... thank you."
Material from team media was used in this report.
|Matt Moulson (19) ASST: Justin Fontaine (7), Mikko Koivu (30)|
1 - 0 MIN
|Jared Spurgeon (4) ASST: Dany Heatley (15), Nino Niederreiter (21)|
2 - 0 MIN
|Mikael Granlund (7) ASST: Jason Pominville (23), Zach Parise (22)|
3 - 0 MIN
|Clayton Stoner (1) ASST: Mikko Koivu (31)|
4 - 0 MIN
|Justin Fontaine (13) ASST: Matt Moulson (23), Mikko Koivu (32)|
5 - 0 MIN
|PPG - Matt Moulson (20) ASST: Matt Cooke (16), Kyle Brodziak (16)|
6 - 0 MIN
|Anders Lee Interference on goalkeeper against Ilya Bryzgalov|
|Nate Prosser Elbowing against Casey Cizikas|
|Clayton Stoner Boarding against Casey Cizikas|
|Mikael Granlund Tripping against Colin McDonald|
|Kevin Czuczman Hooking against Charlie Coyle|
|Calvin de Haan Interference against Matt Cooke|