Thursday night was a night to bust some major slumps for the New York Islanders.
Anthony Beauvillier scored for the first time since Oct. 30 and picked up his first point in 16 games while goaltender Semyon Varlamov — who started the season 0-5-1 in his first seven starts — recorded his first victory of the season by making 40 saves in a 3-1 victory over the Boston Bruins at UBS Arena.
“It’s been a long time since I won my last game,” Varlamov said. “First win for me feels amazing, finally. It was a tough stretch but it’s over.”
For Beauvillier, it was a strong response after being benched on Dec. 11 against the New Jersey Devils where he was called out by head coach Barry Trotz, who admitted that there’s a “next level” to his game.
“Feels good,” Beauvillier said. “I’ve been grinding to find my game lately, but the last few games have been good. [The benching was] definitely a wake-up call.
“It’s hard to hear when you’re being sat down, but you try to find the positives of it.”
Cal Clutterbuck scored twice in the victory to lead the Islanders’ offense — an uncommon outing for the fourth-liner.
The Islanders’ second-ever victory at their new home came at the expense of a Bruins team that had six players in the NHL’s COVID protocol, including the likes of Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron, that forced them to play with only 17 skaters instead of the usual 18.
Clutterbuck put the Islanders in front at the 11:47 mark of the first period, pouncing on a puck that squirted from behind the goal and mailing a wrister into the top-right corner of the net. It was something to show for a fast Islanders start in which they outshot the Bruins 9-2.
While Boston ultimately found its legs toward the latter stages of the first period, so did Varlamov, who wasn’t short of shaky moments in the first period.
That included a strong pad save in the second stanza on an onrushing and dangerous David Pastrnak, who deked to his backhand to try and slot one through the Islanders’ netminder.
By that save, though, the Islanders were up a pair after Beauvillier’s tally, which came on a power play sparked by Derek Forbort’s high-stick just six seconds into the second period.
With 1:38 gone in the power play, Beauvillier unleashed a slap shot from the left wing that whizzed over Bruins netminder Linus Ullmark. The 24-year-old proceeded to drop to a knee and let off an emphatic fist pump as the relief was clear within the winger’s demeanor.
It was the highlight of a second period that saw the Islanders outshot 21-12 as Varlamov stabilized to look more like the stalwart from the previous two seasons.
“I feel like they were just trying to throw everything at the net and play the rebound,” Varlamov said. “That was their plan… My job was just to track the puck well and not to give up a lot of rebounds.”
He saw things out in the third period to preserve the victory, which was punctuated by Clutterbuck’s second goal of the game — an empty netter from the red line with 2:17 to go. However, he lost the shutout with just 53.1 seconds remaining in the game when a shot from Mike Reilly on from the left boards was deflected by defenseman Scott Mayfield and fluttered over his glove.
Clutterbuck nearly had his hat trick seconds later, but his long-range effort slid off the post.