It’s not often Matt Martin puts up a multi-goal game. In fact, it had not happened in nearly seven years until Thursday night.
The fourth-line winger scored twice in the New York Islanders’ 5-2 victory over the Buffalo Sabres — their fourth win in five games — at Nassau Coliseum, good for his first multi-goal game since March 25, 2014 against the Carolina Hurricanes.
His sudden burst of offensive prowess capped off an overwhelming offensive display in which the Islanders posted a season-high 45 shots on the day, with multi-point efforts being added by Jordan Eberle and Casey Cizikas.
All the while, rookie goaltender Ilya Sorokin picked up his third-career victory, stopping 16 of 18 shots.
“I think Ilya has earned the trust of his teammates and everybody,” Islanders head coach Barry Trotz said. “That was a little bit of a tough game because Ilya didn’t have a lot of work. The shots were deceiving.”
The Islanders popped a pair of goals in the first period, a deserved output considering they dominated large portions of the opening 20 minutes.
After starting the game with a 6-4 shot advantage, the Islanders closed out the first period outshooting Buffalo 12-2.
During that stretch, Noah Dobson netted the opener with 10:25 into the period when he sniped a wrister off an Eberle pass into the top corner blocker side of Johansson.
Almost six minutes later, Martin pulled off a magic trick with the help of Johansson’s head. The fourth-line winger, drifting past the goal-line to the Sabres goalie’s right, banked a shot from behind the goal-line off the netminder’s helmet and in.
“No one really came to me,” Martin said. “Initially, I was looking to find [Cizikas] or [Clutterbuck] around the net, they weren’t open. I took a look at the goalie and saw that he was down… I was lucky to hit that spot.”
Buffalo got one back through a starving star as Taylor Hall picked up his first goal since opening night, breaking a 20-game drought.
On a 2-on-1 chance, Sabres captain Jack Eichel’s wrister was kicked away by Sorokin but right to Hall, who slotted it home 3:08 into the period. The goal snapped Sorokin’s shutout streak at 143:08 after blanking the Sabres and Pittsburgh Penguins in consecutive appearances.
While the Sabres improved on neutralizing the Islanders’ transition game that was able to roam freely in the first period, New York still outshot the Sabres 14-5 in the second frame. They got the Hall goal back when Brock Nelson sprung the speedy Anthony Beauvillier on a breakaway where he beat Johansson with 5:02 left before the break.
Beauvillier was able to cap his 300th-career NHL game in style with that tally.
“It feels like yesterday it was the first time playing here,” the 23-year-old said. “I wouldn’t call myself an older guy. I’m still young at heart. It’s been a fun ride.”
Eberle got on the goal sheet when Anders Lee sent a spinning slapshot off a Sabres turnover on Johansson’s goal, which was fought off. But the rebound came right to the Eberle, who tickled the twine with a wrister glove side.
It was Eberle’s ninth of the season and his first goal since Feb. 25 against the Bruins.
On a delayed penalty call on Cizikas, the Sabres found a second with Rasmus Ristolainen nicking one over Sorokin from close range with 12:37 left in regulation.
With 5:32 to go, though, Martin put things out of sight for the Islanders when he drove hard to the net and finished off a second chance opportunity from point-blank range.
“When he gets in those areas, he’s lethal,” Cizikas said of Martin. “He has a hell of a shot and he can pick his spot and he showed that tonight.”
The triumph extends the Islanders’ perfect record against the Sabres this season to 4-0 as they move into a tie for first place in the Eastern Division.