If the New York Islanders offense went dry in the desert, the floodgates opened on Monday night.
The Islanders beat the Anaheim Ducks 5-2, snapping a three-game losing streak with an emotionally-charged win. In the process of blowing off some steam on the ice, they relieved the pressure and offensive frustrations from the past week.
“It was good to get this win right before the holidays to feel good about ourselves before we start the second half,” Matt Martin said. “We had a little bit of a losing streak there that we needed to find our way out of and we got some big goals tonight.”
Down 1-0 in the first period, Martin gave the Islanders a jolt, stepping up and fighting Josh Manson after the Ducks’ defenseman took a run at Nick Leddy. The Islanders responded scoring three goals in the final 5:06 of the first period.
“The guys really responded to [the fight],” Martin said. “Clutterbuck had a big goal and we rolled after that. Sometimes those things work in your favor, sometimes they don’t. It was something I think needed to be done.”
Clutterbuck scored the first of the Islanders’ quick strikes, tying the game 1-1 at 14:54. Clutterbuck skated in on the wing, sidestepped a hip check from Kevin Bieksa and threaded the needle over Frederik Andersen’s shoulder from a sharp angle. Had goalies still put their water bottles on top of the net, Andersen would have likely been down one water bottle.
The Islanders carried the play through the rest of the period and were rewarded with a pair of goals in the final minute. Brock Nelson had a hand in both, providing the screen for Travis Hamonic’s point shot at 19:00, 43 seconds before beating Andersen with a wrister from the slot. John Tavares assisted on both goals, ending a three-game point drought.
Monday’s Islanders-Ducks tilt had an edge that most East-West battles lack. In addition to Martin’s fight, Tavares got into it with Ryan Getzlaf in the second period after taking repeated slashes from Ducks players. The referees gave Tavares and Getzlaf roughing minors, but the captain’s faceoff provided some extra volts in an emotionally-charged game.
“It was heat of the moment,” Tavares said of his frustrations boiling over. “I’d had enough. Probably not my smartest decision.”
His teammates took notice.
“It’s not easy to drop the gloves,” Hamonic said. “He steps up against a pretty big guy in Getzlaf, a tough guy and it certainly sparks your bench when your best player, your captain and one of the best players in the league does something he doesn’t do all that often.”
The teams played a scoreless second period, largely thanks to Jaroslav Halak, who made 12 of his 27 saves in the middle frame. John Gibson replaced Andersen at the start of the second period after the starter allowed three goals on 11 shots.
The Ducks cut into the Islanders’ lead at 7:32 of the third period, as Manson corralled a bouncing puck and beat Halak before he could get set. The Islanders didn’t need long to reestablish their two-goal advantage, as Anders Lee tipped a Ducks clearing attempt right to Josh Bailey in the slot, who hammered his seventh past Gibson at 9:35. Martin iced the game with an empty-netter at 17:27.
The Islanders have the next five days off before returning to action on Sunday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Tavares On-Ice Interview
Clutterbuck with Shannon and Rick
Martin and Boychuk on win over Ducks