The New York Islanders overcame a sluggish start and handily defeated the expansion Vegas Golden Knights 6-3 at Barclays Center Monday night. John Tavares scored twice while Josh Bailey added three assists to pace the Isles attack. Jaroslav Halak made 31 saves to earn the victory for the Islanders who now have won five or their last six contests and have a 7-4-1 record on the young season.
The Islanders did what they needed to do against an expansion club: wore down the opponent and took advantage of their deeper roster. The Isles were also aided when Vegas starter Oscar Dansk, who is actually the team’s third-string goalie, left the game with an injury late in the second period with the score tied at 2-2. Maxime Legace replaced him in net and promptly yielded four goals on 11 shots the rest of the way.
The Islanders gave up their sixth shorthanded goal of the season at the 9:31 mark of the opening period. Nick Leddy was outhustled to the puck by Cody Eakin who centered the puck to William Karlsson to make it 1-0 Golden Knights. It was the first shorthanded goal in Vegas franchise history.
The Islanders were dominant early when playing five-on-five but had trouble solving Dansk who made some quality saves despite not looking overly confident in goal and often fighting the puck.
Andrew Ladd finally broke through and tied the game for the Isles at 13:50 on a blast from just inside the blueline.
The Golden Knights finished the period strong and led 2-1 after 20 minutes after Alex Tuch’s power play goal at 15:46. The Islanders played back on their heels late in the opening stanza and were outshot 15-10 in the first 20 minutes.
The Isles struggling power play showed signs of life and netted a pair of second period goals 2:56 seconds apart. Dansk was injured on the Tavares goal at 14:50 and then Barzal netted a pretty goal off a perfect pass by Lee who feathered the puck from the right post to an open Barzal on the left post where the young forward converted an easy tap-in.
“Lee is one of the best net guys in the league,” Barzal said. “I know he’s either getting a good shot off or he’s going to get something over to me on the back side so it just popped out to me. It was a good play by him.”
The Islanders added to their lead early in the third period when Cal Clutterbuck beat Legace to the short side for his second goal of the season.
Once they trailed by two, the Golden Knights started to press in an attempt to get back in the game and the Islanders took advantage by creating quality scoring chances on breakaways. Both Nikolay Kulemin and Tavares converted on these chances and the Isles had a comfortable 6-2 lead midway through the period.
With the three assist performance, Bailey extended his point streak to seven games. “Bails was probably the best player tonight for us,” head coach Doug Weight said after the game. “He was consistent all through the rink and made plays.”
“Josh is a heck of a player who doesn’t get enough credit,” Tavares added. “It’s not just his offense ability which is really flourishing, but his all-around game. To be a successful team you need guys like Josh. He’s really grown into a great leader in the locker room and a lot of the young guys really look up to him.”
The Islanders return to action Thursday night when the travel to Washington to face the Capitals in a key Metropolitan Division contest.
Official attendance was 11,113.
The Islanders scratched defensemen Thomas Hickey and Scott Mayfield.
Cal Clutterbuck led all players with five hits while Tavares had seven shots on goal.
Nick Leddy, Dennis Seidenberg and Anders Lee each had a pair of assists while Nikolay Kulemin had a goal and an assist for the Isles.
The Islanders are now 24-4-4 all-time against Western Conference opponents at the Barclays Center.