Anthony Beauvillier had his chance to make a memory in this milestone game.
The puck was right there on the fast-moving left wing’s stick, not far from the front of the Capitals’ net in the third period Friday night at NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum. The Islanders were searching for the tying goal.
But then it all went wrong. Braden Holtby kicked out his right pad to stop the shot and prevent it from becoming a 2-2 game, and Beauvillier ended up plowing into him and getting penalized for goalie interference.
Not exactly a dream-come-true sequence in the Islanders’ 3-1 loss.
“I’m going to have nightmares over that one tonight,” Beauvillier said of the missed opportunity after the crowd of reporters in the locker room had thinned to one.
Beauvillier’s NHL career here had just turned 200 games old. He’s only 21 years old.
So where is the former first-round pick in his development after 200 tries at this? He’s still a promising work in progress.
“I’m still young, right?” Beauvillier said. “I’m still learning. [I’ve had] three coaches in three different years, so a different voice every time. I’m a sponge here. I’m just trying to learn from everyone, different coaches, different tips that they can give me.
“I’m still trying to find, I wouldn’t say my identity; I know what I have to do to have success, but just consistently. I’ve got to find my [consistency], I mean, to bring it for years and years.”
After contributing nine goals and 15 assists in 66 games as a rookie, Beauvillier flashed more promise last season. There was the career-best five-game goal streak. There were the four two-goal games. There were the 21 goals and 15 assists in 71 games.
But he has 15 goals and only seven assists in 63 games this season.
“He’s a young guy that is still looking for that day-in and day-out game,” coach Barry Trotz said.
There have been productive stretches. In November, he had five goals and two assists in a five-game span, including his first career hat trick and an assist in a 7-5 win over the Rangers at Barclays Center. In December, he had four goals in another five-game span.
That was followed by a quiet stretch of two goals and five assists in 27 games. In the four games since, he has matched that two-goal production.
Trotz likes when Beauvillier puts his speed and sharp offensive instincts on display. He said that’s when he is “a really solid player.”
“The biggest [area] where Beau is effective, it doesn’t matter what line he is on, is using his speed to pressure people, using his speed in the right areas, using his speed and quickness even in the defensive zone, even wall play,” Trotz said. “He’s got the gift of good quickness and speed and got an ability to score, and [it’s] just being consistent in those areas, playing with that asset he has and using it to his advantage he has.”
Trotz dropped him from the second to the third line for 10 games before bumping him back up to the second line with Josh Bailey and center Mathew Barzal for the last two. Bailey and Barzal assisted on Beauvillier’s goal in the 6-1 win over the Maple Leafs on Thursday night in Uniondale.
“We’ve played together quite a bit,” Beauvillier said. “I thought we’ve had two good games. We had some good chances. [Thursday] we had a strong game. We’re really good when we create loose pucks. We’re good on the forechecks. That’s how we have success, and that’s what we have to do.”
The Islanders took Barzal with the 16th overall pick in 2015, and he won the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s top rookie last season. He has 39 goals and 98 assists in 148 career games.
Beauvillier was the Islanders’ other first-round pick in 2015. They selected the 5-11 native of Quebec 28th overall. He has 45 goals and 37 assists to show for his 200 games.
The milestone game meant something to him.
“Yeah, that’s pretty cool, such a young age,” Beauvillier said. “It feels like yesterday I was playing my first game. It’s been awesome, my three seasons here. I mean, an unbelievable room. A great group of guys. They made me feel like I was part of the group my first day of training camp. So I’m really thankful for that. It’s been really fun.”
While he has been searching for consistency, his much-improved team suddenly is, too. The Islanders — who fell into a first-place tie with the Capitals atop the Metropolitan Division on Friday night, although they do have a game in hand on Washington — are trying to nail down their first playoff berth since 2016 as well as the division title. They’re 37-20-7 with 18 games left, but they’re 2-3-1 in their last six as they head into Sunday’s game against the Flyers at the Coliseum.
Beauvillier’s forecast calls for clearing skies.
“The sun’s been bright all season,” he said. “It’s good to see some adversity right now. We have some tough games coming up. We have a good-character team, so we’re going to bounce back and everything’s going to be well.”
No. 18 LW
Born: June 8, 1997 in Sorel-Tracy, Quebec (age 21)
Draft: 2015 by Islanders, first round (28th overall)