If you happened to brave the long concession or restroom lines during the second period intermission and got back late to your seat at the 43-year-old Nassau Coliseum on Tuesday night, you likely returned to an entirely different game.
After the NHL’s third-worst team played the Metropolitan Division leaders to a draw for over 43 minutes, the New York Islanders (40-20-2) suddenly ambushed the Arizona Coyotes (20-34-7) with a four-goal explosion in a span of only 5:52, to win, 5-1, and stop a two-game skid while handing their hapless visitors a seventh straight loss.
Tied 1-1, four different Islanders quickly scored, including center Kael Mouillierat, after making his NHL debut two games earlier on Saturday, posted his first league point with an assist on left winger Matt Martin’s game-winner, 3:18 into the last period, before recording his first career goal 3:58 later.
A mere 57 seconds after Martin’s goal, defenseman Johnny Boychuk provided some insurance. But New York (482 points), which remained two points ahead of the second-place New York Rangers and a point behind Eastern Conference-leading Montreal, rapidly padded its lead further on Mouillierat’s goal just 3:01 after Boychuk’s, before center Brock Nelson closed the scoring 1:54 later, to give the Islanders their fourth goal within the first 9:10 of the final frame.
Goaltender Mike Smith (10-27-5) made 34 saves and did well to keep his team in the game until he was eventually overwhelmed by the Islanders’ swift scoring barrage.
Giving starter Jaroslav Halak a rest, Smith counterpart, Chad Johnson even his season record at 7-7-1 while stopping 27 of the Coyotes’ 28 shots on goal.
Following a scoreless opening period during which New York doubled Arizona in shots (12-6), center Anders Lee continued his impressive season with his 20th goal of the year, 37 seconds into the second period, when he patiently stopped a centering pass from defenseman Travis Hamonic before backhanding the puck over Smith for the game’s first score.
Late in the stanza, right winger David Moss stole the puck from captain John Tavares in the Coyotes’ zone, which led to a 3-on-2 break the other way. Moss passed to left winger Martin Erat, who dropped the pass back for a nice left wing blast into the upper left corner of the net by center Mark Arcobello, to even the score with 4:08 left in the period.
Martin’s goal was set up when Mouillierat tried to chip a pass straight ahead to left winger Nikolay Kumelin, who dropped a pass back to Martin for a blast from the left circle that sailed over the Smith’s left shoulder.
With the Coliseum crowd still buzzing over that goal, center Ryan Strome found Tavares on the left wing, who followed with some good stick work and a good pass to Boychuk, who put the Islanders up 3-1 with a shot inside the left post.
Kulemin picked up another assist, as did right winger Colin McDonald, when the two fought hard in back of the Arizona net before McDonald poked the puck to Mouillierat, who was waiting all alone for a close-range goal just inside the slot.
Nelson’s goal came with some perseverance after some crisp passing started in the New York end. McDonald made the second of three connecting passes (for his second assist) and Nelson made the final of those passes, to left winger Josh Bailey, who was denied by Smith. Following the play, Nelson moved in and batted a puck that was a few inches above the ice into the net.
The speedy four-goal eruption took the life out of the previously feisty Coyotes as the Islanders evened their current four-game homestand following a loss to Vancouver on Sunday.
Having reached the 40-win mark for the first time in eight seasons, New York will close its home stretch while putting its conditioning to the test, with opening face-offs just 22 hours apart, against Calgary on Friday night and Carolina the following evening.