Travis Hamonic made a triumphant return to the Islanders lineup on Friday night.
Hamonic, who missed four games with a lower-body injury, scored the game-winning goal, part of a two-point night for the Islanders’ defenseman, as his team beat the Ottawa Senators 5-2 on Friday night at Canadian Tire Centre.
“He had a great night tonight,” Head Coach Jack Capuano said. “I’m going to ride him. I don’t know how many minutes he played, but I’m going to play him in all key situations. He’s one of our best defensemen since I’ve been around. I was pretty pleased with those guys on the back end.”
Hamonic was part of an active Islanders’ defense corps, as he and Nick Leddy both found the back of the net. John Tavares and Kyle Okposo each had a goal and an assist, while Cal Clutterbuck rounded out the scoring for the Islanders.
Tied 2-2 heading into the third, the Islanders took control of the game, outshooting the Senators 14-4, pairing shutdown defense with markers from Hamonic, Tavares and Okposo.
“Overall it was a pretty good road game, especially coming off a long layoff,” Tavares said. “They came hard. We knew it would be a physical game and hard fought. We just stuck with it.”
Hamonic scored the go-ahead goal for the Islanders early in the final frame, stepping into a slap shot at 2:58. Tavares did a lot of the heavy lifting, outworking the Senators’ defensemen on the wall, starting and stopping until he had enough time and space to find Hamonic at the point.
“I was able to suck the winger down towards me and Hamonic was open,” Tavares said. “He made a great shot.”
Hamonic had a hand in Tavares’ insurance marker at 7:03, hurrying back to the blue line to gather the puck before throwing it on net. Tavares did the rest, corralling his own rebound and shoveling his 16th past Hammond. Okposo effectively iced the game with six minutes to play.
“It was a big third,” Clutterbuck said. “I thought we played pretty well for the first two periods… The first two periods it was a really even hockey game, but we did a really good job in the third of moving pucks forward… and making plays when we had the chance.”
The Islanders started the night early, taking advantage of the Senators 29-ranked penalty kill. The Islanders power play only needed 19 seconds, as Frans Nielsen dropped a pass to Leddy, who ripped a point shot past Andrew Hammond at 3:49 of the first period. Leddy’s goal was his third of the season and extended his point streak to three games (2G, 1A).
The Islanders had a chance to extend their lead with two more first period power plays. Brock Nelson – the Islanders’ leading goal scorer – had the best chance on the man advantages, but his point-blank chance – on a feed from Josh Bailey – was denied by Hammond.
Ottawa tied the score early in the second period on the heels of an early power play. Just as Matt Martin exited the box, Bobby Ryan snapped a wrister high short-side on Jaroslav Halak, tying the game 1-1 at 2:05.
The Senators carried the play for the first half of the second, eventually taking a lead on Erik Karlsson’s 10th at 10:51. Curtis Lazar fed Karlsson from behind the net and the Senators’ captain snapped it short side past Halak.
The Islanders didn’t stay down long, answering back 19 seconds later. The Islanders’ energy line forced a turnover deep in the Senators’ zone and Clutterbuck scored his 10th of the season in the ensuing scramble, whacking a loose puck past Hammond at 11:10.
Tied 2-2, the Islanders credited Jaroslav Halak with a game-saving stop, as he robbed Mark Stone with a lunging blocker save off a kicked-out rebound. That save kept the game tied heading into the third, setting the stage for the Islanders’ push.
The win avenged last month’s loss to the Senators and gave the Islanders some momentum heading into the second half of a back-to-back set, concluding Saturday night against the Philadelphia Flyers at Barclays Center.