Andrew MacDonald scored twice while Michael Grabner, John Tavares and P.A. Parenteau each had a goal and an assist as the New York Islanders downed the visiting St. Louis Blues 5-2 in a Saturday matinee. Al Montoya made 21 saves to earn the win.
MacDonald had a great all around game. He led the Islanders in ice time with 25:22, finished with a plus-two rating and added two blocked shots and a pair of hits.
The offense was an unexpected bonus for MacDonald. “It’s nice to be able to put some goals up on the board but the most important thing is we got two points,” the young defenseman said.
Isles Coach Jack Capuano also recognized MacDonald’s value. “He has been a guy that we can rely on back there,” Capuano said. “He gives us a ton of minutes and he’s become a leader for our team.”
The Islanders opened the scoring midway through the first period on a highlight reel goal by Tavares. P.A. Parenteau set up the play with a backhand pass as he was falling to the ice. Tavares then faked out two Blues defenders before lifting a backhand shot past Blues goalie Ben Bishop to make it 1-0 Islanders.
“P.A. made a great play protecting the puck and feeding it through a couple of sticks,” Tavares said. “Oshie thought I was going to shoot and he stiffened up to try to block it, I made a move around him and I was able to put it in.”
Parenteau had a chance at an open net when he beat Bishop to a loose puck in the Blues zone in the first period but his shot from the right circle missed wide of the goal to the short side. The frustrated forward had gone 10 games without a goal.
“It was a tough one,” Parenteau said. “I saw Bishop come out of the net. I don’t know why he came out so early. There is no excuse for missing that kind of opportunity, you don’t get those often.”
His frustration didn’t last very long, however as he tipped home a centering pass from Michael Grabner with 41 seconds left in the first period to give the Isles a 2-0 lead after 20 minutes.
MacDonald’s first goal of the game 12:49 into the second period made it 3-0 Islanders. He took a pass from Matt Martin from just inside the blue line and shot a bullet past Bishop.
It was MacDonald’s second goal that made the biggest difference for the Islanders. St. Louis had closed to within 3-1 on a goal by Andy McDonald and was beginning to carry the play. But the Islander defenseman stole the puck from the Blues McDonald and was off on a breakaway. He came down the left side and blasted the puck just under the cross bar to make it 4-1 Islanders and put the game out of reach.
When he was asked if he felt confident on the breakaway, MacDonald was honest. “Not really. I think that was the first breakaway of my life. I knew there was somebody coming from my right and I just tried to get the shot off without stickhandling and luckily I put one in.”
After Chris Stewart scored on a power play midway through the third to cut the Islanders lead to 4-2, Grabner closed out the scoring on a breakaway with 7:35 left in the game. Grabner’s goal ended an eight game scoring drought for February’s rookie of the month.
Overall, it was a solid performance for the Islanders. Despite being outshot 23-22, they had a lot more quality chances than the struggling Blues.
“Our guys are just playing well,” Capuano added. “They believe in one another and they’re playing hard. I give a lot of credit to those guys in the room right now.”
The Islanders return to action Sunday afternoon when they host the New Jersey Devils at the Nassau Coliseum.
The Islanders scratched Radek Martinek and Milan Jurcina while Trevor Gillies sat out the first game of his 10-game suspension. St. Louis scratched Tyson Strachan and Roman Polak.
Matt Martin and BJ Crombeen dropped the gloves early in the second period.