It was an emotional return to the Nassau Coliseum Tuesday night for former Isles’ forward Matt Moulson. But for 60 minutes, he let his stick do most of the talking. In the end, Moulson scored twice and added one assist. He left the ice with the crowd chanting his name and his new team left with an easy 6-0 win over the Islanders.
“I was pretty nervous before the game,” Moulson admitted. “I don’t think I slept a minute during pre-game nap today. It was emotional experience coming back here, obviously. It was tough at the start for me to get my mind into the game but I think getting the first goal kind of calmed me down.”
That first goal came at the 12:23 mark of the opening period and ended up being all the help that goalie Ilya Bryzgalov would need tonight. He made 36 saves to earn the shutout although the Islanders rarely had second and third scoring chances from in close during the game. Mikko Koivu also added three assists for Minnesota.
Jared Spurgeon scored his fourth goal of the year with 4:03 left in the first period. Former Islander Nino Niederreiter assisted on Spurgeon’s goal just to add insult to injury for Isles’ fans. The Wild escaped with a 2-0 lead at the end of the first period despite being outshot 16-6.
It was a rough outing for Isles goalie Anders Nilsson who followed up a strong showing Sunday against Buffalo with a mediocre performance tonight. Nilsson allowed six goals on just 22 shots although he certainly didn’t get much help from his team.
After the first period, the Isles appeared listless, allowing a goal by Mikael Granlund in the second period and three more in the third which included a breakaway by Clayton Stoner, a goal that was awarded upon video review by Justin Fontaine and Moulson’s second of the night which put the icing on the cake with just 3:26 left on the clock.
“We just didn’t get enough after the first period,” Isles’ forward Kyle Okposo explained. “We looked like we stopped playing… It’s unacceptable.”
To make things worse for the Islanders, they lost defenseman Brian Strait who broke his hand blocking a shot in the second period and is now out indefinitely.
In the end, this was Moulson’s day. He made a triumphant return to the Nassau Coliseum where the fans reminded him how much they appreciated his efforts over his five seasons on Long Island. As the clock ticked down, the fans screamed, “We want Moulson!” and they weren’t asking for beer.
“It’s a great feeling when something like that happens,” Moulson said when asked about the reception he got from the Long Island fans. “They have a big place in my heart.”
When asked if tonight’s three-point performance was a little sweeter for him, Moulson responded, “Any time a trade happens or you switch teams, you have something to prove. I had a lot of family and friends here today so I had to make sure I didn’t embarrass them.”
Prior to the game, Moulson told reporters he did not expect a return to Long Island this summer even if he hits the open market as a free agent. “He [Garth Snow] said I wasn’t in his future plans,” Moulson said. “I don’t see how that will quickly change.”
For tonight, Moulson was happy to help his new team get two valuable points in the standings as they push on for the playoffs and to bask in the respect and affection of the fans he played his heart out before over the past five years.
For the Islanders, it was another frustrating loss in what has become a long and trying season.
Defenseman Kevin Czuczman made his NHL debut for the Isles after signing as an undrafted college free agent last week. He played 20:06 and registered one shot on goal and three blocked shots. He saw more ice time than expected after Strait was injured in the second period.
Attendance was 14,888.