Matt Martin’s 300th career game could not have gone any better for him and the team en route to the Islanders second consecutive win over their division rivals. On a night when the Islanders organization paid tribute to hall of famer Billy Smith, a legend from arguably the greatest dynasty in sports, they honored the former netminder by defeating the first place Penguins 4-1.
The Penguins now have company on top of the Metropolitan division. The surging Islanders have won eight of their past nine including two consecutive victories over Pittsburgh.
While the outside world is starting to realize the Islanders could be contenders in the Eastern Conference, this is no surprise to anyone in the dressing room.
“We have some good players in here,” Johnny Boychuk explained after tallying one assist and playing just over 23 minutes. “I have said it from the get go that we have a great team and people are probably going to underestimate us. The cat is out of the bag now that we are a really good team”
The Penguins scored late in the first period to take the lead after Evgeni Malkin beat Jaroslav Halak but the deficit did not faze the Islanders, as they are 7-1 in contests when their opponents score first.
Just 72 seconds later Matt Martin buried a loose puck to tie the game. With Michael Grabner inching closer and closer to returning, the Islander forwards understand playing time will not be a given. The fourth line continued to contribute in all aspects of the game whether it was fore-checking, killing penalties or just changing momentum.
“We have been capitalizing on a couple of our opportunities, something we weren’t able to do in the first 10-15 games,” Cal Clutterbuck said, “When we score goals and produce everyone starts to notice us but I could tell you that our game hasn’t changed… It is pretty simple and quiet honestly our job is to be as consistent as possible and we did a good job of that.”
Matt Martin who was later named first star of the game was really impressed by the environment at Nassau Coliseum.
“The crowd was unbelievable tonight Martin said after scoring his second goal of the season. “The atmosphere was great. It was a great game, a great battle for two days. I am glad we were able to come out of it on top.”
Entering the third period the game was tied but the Islanders were noticeably the better team. They scored three goals including a Brock Nelson power-play goal to complete the sweep of the Penguins
Some might be surprised the Islanders are tied for first at this point in the season but it is still early.
“It feels good but we are not even at game 20,” Cal Clutterbuck said. “If the fans are chanting first place on the last game of the season then will be happy.”
The Islanders will try to stay hot as they square off with another divisional opponent, the Philadelphia Flyers on Monday evening at Nassau Coliseum.
By: Scott Charles
WLIE 540 AM SPORTSTALKNY Staff Writer
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