Start fast. Shoot early. Shoot often.
That was the Islanders’ mantra heading into Tuesday’s tilt with the Columbus Blue Jackets, especially given the inexperienced goaltender in the Jackets’ crease and a goalless effort on Saturday afternoon.
Brock Nelson heeded that message, scoring his first-career hat trick as the Islanders skated to a 5-2 win over the Jackets at Barclays Center, their third win of the season against their Metropolitan Division rivals.
“It was good to come out and put the pressure on… that’s how we need to play,” Nelson said. “It’s a good bounce back after the effort on Saturday.”
Nelson’s goals were his 15th, 16th and 17th of the season, giving him the team lead in the process, while Ryan Strome and Brian Strait filled out the scoresheet for the Islanders.
The Islanders had jump from the get-go, nearly scoring in the opening 30 seconds and continued strong, putting 17 pucks on newbie netminder Anton Forsberg in the first period. The shoot-from-everywhere mentality led to two of the Islanders’ five goals, including the icebreaker. With Strome hovering around the crease, Forsberg had trouble with Matt Martin’s wrister, allowing it to squeak through his pads. Strome, already on the doorstep and ready to pounce, poked the puck across the goalline at 5:03.
“A couple squeaked through him like mine,” Strome said. “I caught him looking behind him a couple of times. When it’s a young guy in there, you want to get all over him, or any goalie really. Our motto is get pucks towards the net and we did that tonight.”
The Islanders opened the game with an 11-0 shot advantage and held Columbus without a shot for the first 10 minutes, but the Blue Jackets were able to score once they found the net. Thomas Greiss stopped Jack Johnson’s slapper – Columbus’ first shot – but William Karlsson swept in the rebound for the tying goal at 10:26.
The stalemate didn’t last long, as Nelson scored the first of his three, beating Forsberg cleanly with a far-side wrister at the 12-minute mark. The Islanders ended a dominant first period with a 2-1 lead and a 17-5 shot advantage.
The game evened out in the second period, as the Blue Jackets pushed back. David Savard beat Greiss with a knuckler from the blue line at 13:49 to tie the score, but Nelson came through again, keeping, shooting and scoring five-hole on a two-on-one rush late in the period. Head Coach Jack Capuano praised Nelson’s quick release as one of his versatile forward’s (he rotated back to center Tuesday) biggest strengths.
“The shot has always been there, it’s a matter of getting it off,” Capuano said. “Getting the puck off quick and not making the sexy play all the time. Tonight he was rewarded for that.”
The Islanders continued to throw pucks at the net in the third period and were rewarded in the form of a fourth goal. Strait took a long-range slap shot that found its way through Forsberg’s five-hole at 5:34, giving the Islanders a two-goal cushion down the stretch.
“Brian knows his role on this hockey club,” Capuano said. “It’s good to see him get rewarded.”
Nelson completed the trick with 11 seconds to play, guiding the puck into the net, while being pursued and ultimately tripped by Savard. For his efforts, Nelson was named the first star.
“First hat-trick in a long time,” Nelson said. “Pretty cool feeling.”
With the win, the Islanders snapped a two-game losing streak and a three-game slide against the division. The Islanders won’t be seeing a rookie goalie on Thursday, as they host Henrik Lundqvist and the New York Rangers, but they can control their effort and the other factors that led to Tuesday’s win.
Start fast. Shoot early. Shoot often.
Highlights & Analysis
Locker Room Reaction From Strome, Clutterbuck & Greiss