UNIONDALE, NY— A scouting trip to Bridgeport was the difference in the Islanders ending a seven-game losing streak.
Coach Scott Gordon’s trek to his organization’s AHL affiliate two weeks ago showcased Matt Martin’s skills in providing a physical presence and a power play threat.
Gordon’s initial impressions paid off when the 20-year-old Martin capped his NHL debut by assisting on two Islanders power play goals in a 4-3 shootout win over Nashville on Tuesday night.
Martin logged 14:41 in his first game, including 5:05 on the power play.
The 2008 fifth-round draft pick found an open Mark Streit at the point, setting up the defenseman’s goal with 11.4 seconds left in regulation to facilitate the comeback win.
“That was the first thing that caught my eye about Matt Martin is his willingness to stand in front of the net on the power play,” Gordon said.
Gordon said he elevated Martin to the first unit power play during the game after the left-handed shot assisted on Bruno Gervais’ second-period power play goal.
Martin didn’t waste time using his physicality, knocking down Predators leading scorer Patric Hornqvist to the ice midway through the opening period. But Martin’s exuberance also brought a career first when he was whistled for interference.
The Isles killed off the penalty while Martin’s speed compensated for his infraction when he drew a Nashville interference call later in the period. That set-up the rookie’s first power play action as the 6-2 forward used his sizable frame to screen goalie
Martin’s efforts earned him the team’s plastic hard hat, awarded to the club’s hardest working player. The headwear was another milestone in Martin’s first professional season, which included nine goals and nine assists through Bridgeport’s first 53 games before the promotion.
“Early on I had some butterflies,” Martin said. “As soon as you get in the rhythm of the game; it’s the same game, just a little quicker. I felt really confident that I could be an NHLer and play at this level.”