UNIONDALE, N.Y. – Mathew Barzal had three goals and two assists, Jordan Eberle scored twice, and the New York Islanders beat the Washington Capitals 8-4 Thursday night.
Brock Nelson, Casey Cizikas and Josh Bailey also scored to help the Islanders improve to 14-1-2 at home and move back into a tie with Washington and Pittsburgh atop the East Division with 50 points. The Capitals have a game in hand on both the Islanders and Penguins.
“These games are fun because you’ve got two intense teams,'' Islanders coach Barry Trotz said. ”Fortunately we were able to score some goals tonight."
Semyon Varlamov made 22 saves for New York, improving to 8-3-1 in his last 12 decisions while allowing only 30 goals over that span. Varlamov is 15-7-3 overall this season.
John Carlson had two goals, and T.J. Oshie and Daniel Sprong also scored for the Capitals.
“I don’t think we played hard enough to win a hockey game tonight,'' Capitals coach Peter Laviolette said. “Certain situational things I don't think we did a very good job on. We just lost a game and gave up eight goals. You look to fix that and be better tomorrow night.”
The game featured a chaotic first period, beginning during the initial minute when Washington’s starting goaltender Ilya Samsonov had to leave the ice just 30 seconds in after Oshie collided with him behind the net. Oshie’s shoulder made contact with Samsonov’s head, and the goalie skated off for precautionary reasons. Vitek Vanacek temporarily took over in the crease.
“He had to go and get checked out. He was cleared,'' Laviolette added in reference to Samsonov returning to action. “it was his game so he was going back in.”
Carlson quickly opened the scoring at 1:01, blasting Washington’s first shot past Varlamov with assists credited to Tom Wilson and Conor Sheary.
Eberle tied it at 5:02, taking a cross-ice pass from Leo Komarov and rifling the puck past Vanacek.
The fleet Barzal then put the Islanders ahead 2-1 with a spectacular end-to-end rush, skating through the entire Capitals on-ice quintet and finishing off the solo effort at 16:09 with a high shot past Vanacek while somehow balancing on his right skate blade.
“I knew I had I had picked it up deep and had a little bit of a step,'' the 23-year-old Barzal said. “I felt like I had some ice that I took advantage of.”
Samsonov returned with just over three minutes remaining in the period, just before Nelson scored his 13th goal at 17:32 to make it 3-1.
Sprong narrowed the deficit 48 seconds later before Barzal scored again at 18:53 by sliding the puck past Samsonov from a near-impossible angle below the left faceoff circle to make it 4-2 before the first intermission.
The Islanders outshot the Capitals 13-7 in the six-goal first period and had a 9-7 shots advantage in the second when the scoring continued as Cizikas made it 5-2 with his seventh goal at 3:03 before Oshie closed the deficit with a power-play goal at 6:47.
Eberle then added his second goal of the night at 8:08, one-timing a pass from Barzal for his 13th before Carlson added his second of the game and ninth of the season at 19:01 of the middle period. For the Islander squad that prides itself on winning tight low-scoring games, the rare romp was a relief.
“The importance of this game was huge after dropping two to Pittsburgh. We knew we needed to win,'' Eberle said. ”When you’re scoring, it makes the game fun ... It's nice to know we can put the puck in the net. All in all, it’s two points and that’s what we needed."
Bailey scored at 3:13 of third to make it 7-4 before Barzal completed his fourth career hat trick at 18:54, swatting a puck out of the air past Samsonov as the Islanders set a season high in goals.
Barzal’s five-point performance gave him a team-best 33 points through 37 games. He is tied with Eberle and Nelson for the team lead with 13 goals.
“I think aside from my three, we were just playing good hockey all night'' Barzal added. ”I think we could have had two or three more."
The Capitals had won the first three meetings this season at home, outscoring the Islanders 12-6 in that trio of victories. The teams will meet three more times on Long Island and once in Washington.
Washington had won 10 of last 12 games entering the contest with the only two defeats coming against the Rangers during that span.
The Islanders were 11-4-0 in March, matching the 1981-82 Stanley Cup winning squad for the most wins in March.
TROTZ AGAINST CAPITALS
Since becoming the coach of the Islanders before the 2018-19 season, Trotz is 5-7-0 in the regular season against the team he led to the Stanley Cup in 2018. Thursday’s win was the first in five tries at home against the Capitals in that span. The Islanders did defeat Washington in five games in last summer’s playoff bubble in Toronto.
Islanders: Host Philadelphia on Saturday.
Capitals: At New Jersey on Friday.