MONTREAL — The Islanders have the highest aspirations for the quality of hockey they want to play, following back-to-back trips to the NHL semifinals. It hasn’t been easy finding consistency through a stop-and-start schedule. But routing the struggling Canadiens helped them inch closer to the level they want to attain.
"I have seen us play at our best," coach Barry Trotz said. "We’re not close to our best yet. Hopefully, we get in a rhythm and get four lines going. Today we had three. A few games back we had two."
Brock Nelson’s career-high four-goal performance, including a late empty-netter, another strong outing from Ilya Sorokin and three assists from local product Anthony Beauvillier were the highlights. The Islanders, until late in the third period, played an overall strong team game in Thursday night’s 6-2 win at Bell Centre as they resumed their season-opening, 13-game road trip.
"It’s always nice to have a big night, the guys on the line were contributing," said Nelson, who notched his third career hat trick. "In all factors, it feels good."
"We had a lot of guys going tonight," said Beauvillier, who grew up in nearby Sorel-Tracy, Quebec and assisted on Nelson's first three goals. "It’s a team win, an identity win."
All lines but Mathew Barzal’s top trio with captain Anders Lee and Josh Bailey made the scoresheet.
The Islanders (4-2-2) extended their point streak to 4-0-2 as they started a stretch of three games in four nights, including Saturday at Winnipeg and Sunday at Minnesota. It was their first game in front of fans in Canada since March 10, 2020.
Sorokin made 36 saves, including stopping Christian Dvorak’s breakaway backhander at 15:06 of the second period. But Nick Suzuki’s shorthanded goal at 15:20 of the third period spoiled his bid for a third shutout in four games and Trotz took the blame for not playing his regular power-play units with a five-goal lead, instead trying to reward some players with rare man-advantage time.
Tyler Toffoli made it 5-2 with a five-on-three power play goal at 17:04.
"Sorokin made some big saves for us," said Zach Parise, who notched his first point as an Islander as he set up Jean-Gabriel Pageau’s one-timer for a 5-0 lead at 18:08 of the second period. "But I thought, collectively, we spent a good amount of time in the offensive zone. I thought we had a really good game."
The Canadiens (3-9-0), who reached the Stanley Cup Final last season, were without suspended bottom-six forward Cedric Paquette and top-six forward Jonathan Drouin, who was hit in the head by a puck in Tuesday’s 3-0 win over the Red Wings. No. 1 goalie Carey Price has yet to play.
Nelson made it 1-0 at 4:14 of the first period off Kyle Palmieri’s behind-the-back pass. Oliver Wahlstrom’s blistering wrister from the high slot off Casey Cizikas’ feed made it 2-0 at 3:31 of the second. Nelson extended that to 3-0 at 12:25 of the second, knocking in a rebound at the left post and he reached the hat trick at 15:23, also at the left post off Beauvillier’s feed.
Notes & quotes: Lou Lamoriello reached his milestone 2,600th game as an NHL general manager…Zdeno Chara logged a team-high 21:08 as he played in his 1,616th career game, passing Larry Murphy for the third-most all-time among NHL defensemen. His secondary assist on Nelson’s second goal was his first point in his second tenure with the Islanders…Canadiens goalie Jake Allen allowed five goals on 25 shots before Sam Montembeault entered to start the third period.