Tom Kuhnhackl’s first career two-goal game didn’t feature conventional tallies, one coming while he was on his back and the other going in off his skate as he lurched forward.
But points in the standings are more important than style points and the Islanders snapped a three-game losing streak with a 5-2 win over the Canucks on Tuesday night at Barclays Center to open a three-game homestand.
“Sometimes the puck doesn’t bounce your way or it doesn’t go in,” said goalie Thomas Greiss, who made 22 saves. “We got lucky with the first goal and a couple of other goals, maybe. But when you play well, good things happen to you.”
Jordan Eberle added a goal and an assist and Brock Nelson and Mathew Barzal each had two assists for the Islanders (9-6-2), who played one forward short in the third period after left wing Andrew Ladd appeared to injure his right leg in a collision with defenseman Erik Gudbranson late in the second period. Coach Barry Trotz did not have an immediate update.
Plus, Cal Clutterbuck, with his first goal in 52 games dating to Jan. 13, snapped the Islanders’ 0-for-16 power-play skid as he made it 5-2 at 17:06 of the third period. The Islanders went 1-for-5 with seven power-play shots as Trotz mixed up his two units, swapping Barzal and defenseman Ryan Pulock, moving Barzal from the left half-wall to the right side and also inserting Ladd on the man advantage for the first time this season.
Jacob Markstrom stopped 29 shots for the Canucks (10-8-2), who lost 2-1 to the Rangers on Monday night at Madison Square Garden but took a 1-0 lead on Brendan Leipsic’s goal at 2:48 of the first period.
“It was a tough start there but Kuhnhackl came back with a great goal,” said Barzal, whose assist gives him 101 career points in 101 NHL games. “We kind of had a lucky bounce on (Josh) Bailey’s goal, so some things went right tonight for us and we needed that. It’s a big win.”
Kuhnhackl, the ex-Penguin signed to a one-year, $700,000 deal, now has 14 career goals in 175 NHL games.
He made it 4-2 at 3:26 of the third period as Eberle’s feed from the right corner wound up going in off his skate. The goal was allowed after being reviewed for a kicking motion.
Kuhnhackl had tied the game at 5:11 of the first period despite being tripped. As he fell to his back low in the left circle, Kuhnhackl hooked a backhander that beat Markstrom to the short side.
“I just tried to throw it on net and it was fortunate enough that the puck went in,” Kuhnhackl said. “I looked at Leo (Komarov). He came over and said, ‘Hey, you scored.’ I didn’t even realize it for another 10 seconds.”
Barzal set up Bailey for a 2-1 lead 45 seconds after Kuhnhackl’s first goal.
Eberle, at the crease, made it 3-1 at 14:50 of the first period as Nelson got behind the Canucks’ defense and picked up his 200th career assist.
But the Islanders were called for too many men on the ice at 1:13 of the second period on an innocuous line change and Jake Virtanen’s power-play goal at 2:51 off a rebound in the slot brought the Canucks within 3-2.