The New York Islanders cruised to a 6-1 win over the Phoenix Coyotes Tuesday at the Nassau Coliseum. John Tavares scored twice while Josh Bailey, Frans Nielsen and Michael Grabner each had three point nights to help pace the Islanders. With the victory, the Isles now have five out of a possible six points in their first three games.
Despite the one-sided score, Isles’ coach Jack Capuano said his team needed to work on a few things. “The score obviously wasn’t an indication of how the game went,” Capuano admitted. “Tonight we got some bounces.”
The Islanders also got some strong goaltending by Evgeni Nabokov who made 33 saves and balanced scoring as each of the club’s four lines contributed at least one goal.
Peter Regin broke the ice just 1:49 into the game to help set the tone for the home team. Brock Nelson earned the only assist on the goal to earn his first NHL point.
Tavares cashed in on a 5-on-3 power play with just under 5:00 left in the first period to increase the lead to 2-0 despite the fact that the Coyotes outshot the home team 7-6 in the first period and had plenty of time in the New York zone. The Islanders did a good job of preventing the Coyotes from getting into the slot and getting quality scoring chances.
Matt Donovan scored his first NHL goal at 11:47 of the second period on the power play. He took a shot from just inside the blue line which trickled past Phoenix starter Mike Smith who had a rough outing tonight.
Needless to say, Donovan was excited by his first NHL tally. “It was awesome. Obviously, it barely trickled in but I’ll take ‘em any way I can get ‘em,” he said.
After Martin Hanzal scored at 12:30 of the second period to pull the Coyotes to within 3-1, the Isles answered quickly with Tavares netting his second of the night off a pretty pass by Michael Grabner 2:19 later to restore a three-goal lead for the home team.
“That was a big goal for us,” Capuano admitted, especially in light of the Isles loss to Columbus after holding a 2-0 lead after 40 minutes. “I sensed the positivity on the bench from our guys…The other night at home, we didn’t play the way we wanted to play, we didn’t finish the way we wanted to finish. We wanted to play close to 60 minutes of consistent effort tonight.”
Colin McDonald scored his first goal of the season at 17:24 of the second period to put the game out of reach. The Coyotes pulled Smith after two periods and sent out backup Thomas Greiss to play the third period. Greiss stopped seven of the eight shots he faced. Bailey added the only goal of the third period to put the icing on the cake and clinch a 6-1 final score.
In the end, Tavares was happy to see some of the younger players contributing offensively. “It’s great to see Dono (Matt Donovan) and Brock [Nelson] chip in offensively,” the Isles’ captain said. “They played really well throughout the preseason. It’s an exciting time for them to make the team and show themselves early in the season. It’s nice to see them contribute.”
The Islanders return to action Friday night when they travel to Chicago to take on the defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks.
The game got chippy in the third period with the Coyotes growing frustrated with their poor performance.
Attendance was 10,288.
In addition to scoring his first goal as an Islander, Peter Regin won 9-of-13 faceoffs.
Casey Cizikas led all Isles players with five hits. The Coyotes outhit the Isles 34-15.