Bo Horvat scores in home debut for Islanders in win over Seattle Kraken
The party was already well underway against the overmatched Kraken when Bo Horvat scored his first goal as an Islander in his home debut.
Soon, the first “Hor-vat, Hor-vat” chants rang out in welcome to the elite talent who is now an integral part of this franchise’s future. He was serenaded again after being named the first star as the Islanders extended their winning streak to four with a 4-0 victory on Tuesday night.
“It’s pretty amazing,” Horvat said. “I can’t say I’ve had that before. Maybe when I got named captain [in Vancouver]. To hear it in a regular-season game and to score at home in front of the home fans in my first game made it that much more special.”
UBS Arena, partly because of COVID-19 circumstances, partly because of the Islanders’ performances and partly because it has yet to host a playoff game, has not had an overabundance of special moments since opening in November 2021.
This was one.
“It’s awesome,” said Mathew Barzal, who set up Horvat’s career-high 32nd goal. “It’s a spark for sure when he scored. It’s great to see the fans having a fun night. Hopefully, we can give them some more games like that.”
A dazzling Ilya Sorokin — who received some chants of his own — made 32 saves for his fifth shutout in his first start following his first All-Star appearance.
Rookie defenseman Samuel Bolduc scored his first NHL goal and rookie right wing Simon Holmstrom scored his third. The Islanders (27-22-5), who scored more than two goals for the first time in nine games, have allowed just two goals in their winning streak with Sorokin also shutting out the Red Wings, 2-0, on Jan. 27. They moved within one point of the Capitals for the first wild-card spot.
But this was about Horvat and the quick and easy chemistry he is showing with Barzal, adjusting well to right wing as Horvat now mans the middle on the top line.
“Absolutely,” Barzal said when asked whether Horvat is the type of finisher he’s always craved as a linemate. “I feel like I’ve even got a little more juice out there playing with him. It’s nice to know when I turn up and make plays, he’s going to be sitting there in the right spots.”
The Islanders acquired Horvat, 27, on Jan. 30 for Anthony Beauvillier, Aatu Raty and a top-12 protected first-round pick, then signed him to an eight-year, $68 million extension on Sunday. He made his Islanders’ debut in Monday night’s 2-1 win in Philadelphia.
Horvat, who received the loudest pregame cheer when he was announced as a starter, swept in the puck at 5:08 of the second period for a 4-0 lead after Barzal found him open to the right.
“I think I took a deep breath after that one,” Horvat said. “It definitely felt good. It felt even better to get the win.”
Zach Parise, deflecting Jean-Gabriel Pageau’s shot, had just given the Islanders a 3-0 lead at 3:38 of the second period.
“I remember when I came in, the way that the fans and the team welcomed me just really helped me to get going,” said Pageau, acquired from the Senators in 2020. “When I came, we lost seven in a row. We’ve won two in a row with him and there’s a good vibe going around.”
Bolduc notched his milestone goal to make it 1-0 at 7:59 of the first period and Holmstrom pushed it to 2-0 at 18:29.
A shaky Martin Jones made 24 saves for the Kraken (29-16-5), playing their first game in 10 days.