Mathew Barzal got to smile for the photographer’s camera with the puck from his first NHL goal, but he had some mixed emotions after the Isles’ 4-3 shootout win over the Rangers.
“I’m happy I scored, but I’m kind of frustrated I could’ve had a couple more,” said Barzal, who had two more golden chances in the second period after his strong rush and quick shot past Henrik Lundqvist gave the Islanders a 3-1 lead. “I thought it’d be a breakthrough for sure but Lundqvist robbed me a couple times.”
Such is life with youngsters in key situations. Doug Weight had three of his four under-24 Islanders in the lineup on Thursday and they impacted the game in some different ways. Barzal, who got his first NHL point on Sunday in Los Angeles, finally scored that first goal and was a force on the rush all night.
Ryan Pulock made his season debut as the seventh defenseman, essentially a power-play specialist – 3:18 of his 8:43 of ice time was on the power play – and he made his presence felt right away. The Islanders got a power play at 1:30 of the first and Weight sent Pulock out with the top unit, setting up the defenseman in the faceoff circle to Lundqvist’s right. That’s where Alex Ovechkin sets up shop for the Capitals and clearly Weight was hoping Pulock’s big shot would have a similar effect.
It wasn’t a big blast, but Pulock’s shot from 15 feet set up Anders Lee’s rebound goal to get the Isles off their 0-for-20 power play skid and on the board early.
“It was nice to get one, get the monkey off our backs,” John Tavares said.
Josh Ho-Sang had a few strong moments but he only played one minute in the third and nothing in overtime. Ho-Sang had a golden chance driving the slot in the second and room to shoot, but he chose to look back for a pass and the misfire sent the Rangers rushing the other way and sent Ho-Sang to the bench.
“It’s not because he doesn’t care, he’s a young guy who loves playing hockey,” Weight said. “There’s just some habits there that you have to get rid of at this level.”
Anthony Beauvillier is the other member of this young core and he was a healthy scratch for a third straight game. Weight couldn’t find much fault with the 20-year-old’s game, just choosing to play different players. On Thursday, that meant 11 forwards and seven defensemen, an alignment Weight said after the game he didn’t prefer over a long haul.
“We said when camp began we wanted Beau, Barzy and Josh to come in and earn spots, and they did that,” Weight said. “Now it’s a good problem to have, but these are tough, tough decisions. Beau and I talked yesterday . . . He had one rough game [in Anaheim] but I feel like it’s more on me. I need to find a better defined role for him.”