Mathew Barzal's rookie season just keeps getting better.
Barzal scored his first-career hat trick on Saturday, powering the Islanders to an 5-2 win over the Winnipeg Jets in their last game before the NHL's Christmas break.
Barzal became the first Islanders rookie since Michael Grabner on Feb. 13, 2011 to net a hat trick, as the Islanders improved to 2-1-1 on their current homestand. Jordan Eberle had the primary assist on all three of Barzal's goals, while Anders Lee and Anthony Beauvillier also lit the lamp for the Islanders.
"It was an all-around effort with my linemates tonight," Barzal said. "Ebs gave me a couple of great passes and Ladd was winning battles. It was just awesome to get that chemistry going and to get a win."
Barzal's hat trick moved him into the top-20 in NHL scoring (12G, 23A), making the rookie the fourth Islander among the league's top-20. The 20-year-old also leads NHL rookies in assists and points.
Video: WPG@NYI: Barzal one-times Eberle's feed for hat trick
"It was great to see him get a hat trick. He controlled the play a lot. He had some really good looks. I felt he was moving a little better than he was earlier and he's got that confidence back," head coach Doug Weight said. "He's got composure at a young age and has a lot of confidence right now."
The Islanders played a complete game on Saturday, finding a way to net five goals, while limiting the offensively-potent Jets - who entered the game with the third-most goals in the NHL - to two. That was the important takeaway in the Islanders locker room, after giving up five goals in four of their previous five games.
"We've shown that we have the firepower to win hockey games, but especially down the stretch later in the season a lot of games are 2-1, 3-2 and we need to learn how to win those ways," Eberle said. "Against a really good Winnipeg club we found a way to limit them to two."
Part of that was getting off to a good start. After playing catchup in four of their last five games, the Islanders flipped the script and got out to a hot start, scoring two goals in the opening 2:20.
Video: WPG@NYI: Lee, Barzal score 49 seconds apart
Lee scored his team-leading 22nd of the season on an early power play, chipping in a Josh Bailey rebound in front of the net. Lee's goal extended the Islanders' streak of power-play goals to six games. Barzal scored the first of his three goals 49 seconds later, snapping an Eberle feed past Steve Mason.
Tucker Poolman got one back for the Jets, beating Jaroslav Halak (38 saves) with a wrister through a screen at 13:42, but Barzal restored the two-goal lead in the final minute. The Islanders rookie, who shortly before was cut on a high stick from Matt Hendricks, banked in his second of the game off Tyler Myers from below the goal line.
Video: WPG@NYI: Barzal nets bank shot for second of the game
Barzal completed the hat trick in the third period, snapping an Eberle feed past Mason at 11:12. Beauvillier made it 5-1 at 15:01, finishing a give-and-go with John Tavares, who extended his point streak to seven games. Beauvillier had sat out the previous game as a healthy scratch.
Halak was solid for the Islanders on Saturday, stopping 38-of-40 in the win. The Islanders goalie was in control of his rebounds, limiting second and third opportunities for an offensively-potent Jets team. Perhaps Halak's biggest save came up big in the second period, getting across to stop a Mark Scheifele one-timer at the side of the net. Adam Lowry scored the Jets second goal at 18:24, well after the Islanders put the game out of reach.
Video: WPG@NYI: Halak turns away Perreault twice in the 2nd
The Islanders get three days off for Christmas and are back in action on Dec. 27 against the Buffalo Sabres, which concludes the team's five-game homestand.
Video: NYI 5 vs. WPG 2: Doug Weight
Video: NYI 5 vs WPG 2: Mat Barzal
Video: NYI 5 vs WPG 2: Jordan Eberle
Video: NYI 5 vs WPG 2: Jaroslav Halak
Video: NYI 5 vs. WPG 2: Anthony Beauvillier