It took two tries, but the New York Islanders got the game and the result they were looking for against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Islanders won their rematch with the Leafs 6-3 at Air Canada Centre, producing results from up and down Jack Capuano’s newly formed lines. The coach said he wanted to give this incarnation of the lineup an extended look and they gave him no reason to change his mind.
“We try to tell everybody we have four lines that can play and that can score,” Nelson said. “We were able to do it tonight and when we do that we’re going to be successful.”
John Tavares, Frans Nielsen and Anders Lee each had a goal and an assist, but all four lines got into the scoring. The Islanders took advantage of a rocky game from Leafs goalie Jonathan Bernier, who allowed six goals on 15 shots through two periods.
“[It was a] good response from us,” Nielsen said. “On this team it doesn’t really matter who you’re playing with, it’s great players all around. We scored on a lot of our chances.”
Nelson, skating with Mikhail Grabovski and Ryan Strome, opened the scoring two minutes in, cutting to the slot and beating Bernier with a changeup through the five-hole. Former Islander Brad Boyes tied it up 39 seconds later, but after Tavares gave the Islanders their second lead – redirecting a pass from Josh Bailey – they never gave it back. Nielsen added one for good measure before the end of the period, wheeling around Dion Phaneuf and beating Bernier with a backhand deke fivehole.
“It was nice to get one early, especially when we haven’t scored too many goals of late,” Nelson said. “They got one pretty quick after, but we bounced back and get two more in the first. Whenever you get a two-goal lead in the first it definitely gives you added confidence.”
PA Parenteau, another former Islander, made it 3-2 midway through the second period, but this time the Islanders answered quickly. Nikolay Kulemin scored 28 seconds later, as Nielsen scooped up a Bernier giveaway allowing his new linemate a shot at an empty cage. The Islanders’ fourth line got in on the action next, as Matt Martin snapped his fifth of the season at 18:06. Lee, playing with Tavares and Bailey, snapped a 15-game drought at 19:20, deflecting a Calvin de Haan shot up and over Bernier. James Reimer played the third period for the Maple Leafs. Shawn Matthias rounded out the scoring for the Leafs.
While the Islanders offense dominated the scoresheet, Thomas Greiss did his part on Tuesday night. Greiss made 30 saves, preventing the game from becoming a shootout, which it could have been after Boyes’ quick response.
The Islanders’ penalty kill was a perfect 4-for-4 Tuesday, extending their streak to 35 straight kills over a franchise-record 15 games.
“It’s our second year here together with [Assistant Coach Greg Cronin] and we’re kind of figuring out what he wants us to do and our routes,” Nielsen said. “We’re working hard, sacrificing and hopefully we can keep it going.”
Between the offensive outburst, the stingy penalty kill and the solid, reliable goaltending, there were a few things the Islanders would like to keep going, as their road trip shifts to Buffalo on Thursday night.
“We’re still giving up a little too much,” Nielsen added. “But it was good to get a win and a good start to the road trip.”