Anthony Beauvillier still considers himself "young at heart," which is good, given that he’s only 23.
But the Islanders left wing already is in his fifth NHL season, and he marked his 300th career game by scoring what proved to be the winning goal in Thursday night’s 5-2 victory over the Sabres at Nassau Coliseum.
He said he was vaguely aware he was approaching 300 games.
"I kind of did but I didn’t at the same time," said Beauvillier, who has two goals and four assists in 14 games. "I knew it was close. It feels like yesterday I first started playing here. I wouldn’t call myself an older guy but still young at heart, I guess. It’s been a fun ride so far and I’m looking forward to the rest of it."
Beauvillier scored on a backhander as he got to the Sabres’ crease, making it 3-1 at 14:58 of the second period after Taylor Hall halved the Islanders’ lead early in the period.
"I liked our response," coach Barry Trotz said. "Beau’s goal, I thought, really disheartened them a little bit."
Beauvillier is no longer just a speedy skater.
"I think what stands out most to me with him is his speed and his ability to close on defensemen," right wing Cal Clutterbuck said.
"There’s different ways to forecheck. He’s gotten a lot better at using his body to separate defensemen [from the puck]. He’s a really good stick-picker and he turns pucks over really well that way. Even just the pressure he puts on these defensemen causes them to make quicker plays than they’d like.
"Offensively, when he gets it in the neutral zone or in the offensive zone, he’s pretty good at getting his feet moving and getting separation. So he’s grown a lot as a player."
Trotz traces a good portion of Beauvillier’s growth to the 2018-19 season, Trotz’s first season as Islanders coach. Beauvillier went through two 13-game goal droughts as well as a 10-game drought to end the regular season.
"He was so focused on scoring and stats and worried about getting sent down because he had no points," Trotz said. "I just told him worry about playing the right way. ‘I don’t want you to score, I just want you to play the right way. If you can do that, you’ll have success.’ "
Notes & quotes: The Islanders, at 8-0-2, remain the only team without a regulation loss at home . . . Matt Martin had his first two-goal game since March 25, 2014. He and defenseman Scott Mayfield each had a game-high five shots . . . Defenseman Andy Greene was a plus-4 for the first time since Feb. 15, 2013, when he was with the Devils . . . Penguins captain Sidney Crosby and assistant coach Todd Reirden were cleared from the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol list and the team reported no new absences. The Islanders played the Penguins twice over the weekend . . . The Sabres did not have a power play, but defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen jammed in a rebound to make it 4-2 at 7:23 with the teams skating four-and-four and a delayed call pending on Casey Cizikas . . . Defenseman Sebastian Aho, Ross Johnston and Leo Komarov remained the healthy scratches.
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