Two goals from Brock Nelson established a new career-high as the New York Islanders downed the Detroit Red Wings 5-2 on Thursday night at UBS Arena for their eighth win in 11 games.
Ilya Sorokin stopped 37 of 39 shots to soundly beat the man whose job he took, former Islanders goalie Thomas Greiss, who spent five seasons on Long Island. In fact, Greiss was greeted rather rudely in his first game against his old team since leaving after the 2019-20 season — conceding three goals in two period before being pulled with an apparent injury.
The Islanders got off to a historic start when Anthony Beauvillier scored nine seconds into the game. Off the opening face-off, an Anders Lee forecheck forced a turnover before wheeling a pass to Beauvillier, who one-timed a close-range shot past Greiss on the first shot he saw against his old team.
It was the second-fastest goal scored to start a game in franchise history, behind only Bryan Trottier’s five-second opening goal in 1984 against the Boston Bruins.
“I got a little bit of a break. I was able to poke it and Beau finished it really well,” Lee said. “We just kinda set out to have a good start and we got a break from it.”
Mathew Barzal and Oliver Wahlstrom hooked up to double the Islanders’ lead with 3:57 to go in the period. Barzal streaked down the left-wing and spun in at the bottom of the circle before sending a spinning pass to Wahlstrom, who lasered a wrister through Greiss for his 12th goal of the season.
Not the best period from the Red Wings netminder, who made just three saves on five shots in the opening 20 minutes.
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Just five seconds later, though, Wahlstrom found himself in the penalty box for a hold before being joined by Jean-Gabriel Pageau 20 seconds later. Despite a 1:40 stretch being down two men, the Islanders managed to kill off the penalties to keep their two-goal cushion going into the break. The fact that the Islanders announced the long-term absences of Cal Clutterbuck (season-ending shoulder surgery) and Scott Mayfield (4-6 weeks, LBI), made it all the more impressive considering they are two of the team’s top penalty-killers.
“The whole game was teetering on that 5-on-3,” head coach Barry Trotz said. “We did an outstanding job.”
The Islanders’ power play had no issues clicking, though, as Brock Nelson roofed a wrister on the man advantage while falling with 8:21 to go in the second for his 28th goal of the season set a new career-high.
“He makes really good reads and really good plays, but he shoots the puck really well,” Trotz said of Nelson. “It doesn’t surprise me.”
Josh Bailey made it four just 1:19 into the third period with a wrister from the left circle that beat Alex Nedeljkovic, who replaced Greiss in the third, short side. It was his fourth goal in the last nine games while tying him with team legend Bob Bourne for ninth-place on the franchise’s all-time career points list with 542.
Sorokin lost his shutout with 6:35 to go when a slapshot from the point was deflected by Pius Suter. Had he kept Detroit off the board, it would have been his seventh shutout of the season, tying Semyon Varlamov last year and Chico Resch in 1975-76 for the most in a single season.
It was the first of three goals scored in 1:53 — Sam Gagner got Detroit’s second goal with 4:42 to go in regulation. But Nelson nabbed his second of the night just 38 seconds after Suter’s goal thanks to a pinpoint saucer pass from Beauvillier at the right post. His 29th goal came in just his 53rd game of the year — good for an 82-game pace of 43 goals.
“We’re just out there having fun,” Nelson said. “Tonight was no different. We had some good looks.”