BROOKLYN, N.Y. — The New York Islanders won their 10th consecutive game on Tuesday, dominating the Ottawa Senators 4-1. Team captain Anders Lee didn’t register a point. Neither did star scorer Mat Barzal.
Instead, the NHL’s hottest team found offense from unlikely sources in grinding forward Cal Clutterbuck (one goal, one assist) and rookie Cole Bardreau, who scored his first career goal on a penalty shot in the second period. The Fairport, N.Y., native was pulled down on a breakaway by Senators defenseman Mark Borowiecki and scored the eventual game-winner in just his seventh career game.
“Not gonna lie, I was pretty nervous there looking up [before the penalty shot], but I just ripped it and it went in,” he said after the game.
Both Bardreau and Islanders head coach Barry Trotz noted that the 26-year-old has had multiple breakaway opportunities since he made his NHL debut Oct. 19, but hadn’t yet capitalized on one. Bardreau laughed when asked for his strategy on the penalty shot.
“My strategy was kind of shoot, I guess,” he said. “The first couple times [I had breakaways], I tried to make moves and it didn’t go so well. So get back to the bread-and-butter grinder, just shoot it and look for net.”
The Islanders bench mobbed Bardreau after the goal in celebration of a unique achievement long in the making. He is just the seventh player since 1934-35 to score his first career goal on a penalty shot, and it came after the Cornell product played over 200 games in the AHL in the last five years. Trotz even said he threw his hands in the air in celebration — noting that Bardreau’s frequent breakaway opportunities made a penalty shot “what everybody was hoping for” when it came to the rookie’s first goal.
“If you see the bench when it went in, I think everybody was hugging, jumping up and down,” Casey Cizikas said of the moment. “[Bardreau] works extremely hard. That was a huge goal, that was a well-deserved goal and I don’t think there’s a single guy in here that’s upset for him. He’s earned every single minute he’s been on the ice here. That was a big goal and I think one that he’ll remember forever.”
The goal solidified the Islanders’ 10-game win streak, which is currently the longest in the league by far. It’s marked by strong scoring at even-strength and superb goaltending from tandem netminding duo Thomas Greiss and Semyon Varlamov. The wins keep coming even without impact forwards Jordan Eberle or Leo Komarov in the lineup due to injury. Trotz said the whole bench recognizes the team’s situation — depth forwards Tom Kuhnackl and Matt Martin remain sidelined, too — and that everyone needs to chip in.
And chip in, they did.
Bardreau wasn’t alone in-depth scoring Tuesday: Clutterbuck’s first-period goal marked his first tally of the season. He followed up by feeding a smooth backhand pass to Cizikas during a penalty kill rush in the third period for his first of the year and a 3-1 lead.
“[They are] usually guys that don’t get a lot of love all the time because they’re not all that sexy sometimes when it comes to the goal-scoring and all that,” Trotz said of his scorers in Tuesday’s win. “Sometimes those guys need a little bit of reward for their hard work and their effort.”
Josh Bailey’s goal brought the game to 4-1 and ensured the second-longest winning streak in franchise history’s continuation. Despite all the success, though, Trotz said the Islanders aren’t thinking about the win streak, or that their 22 points stand third-best in the Eastern Conference with a game in hand on Boston (24 points) and Washington (25).
“We just sort of look at it one game at a time,” he said. “Seriously, if you guys wouldn’t bring it up we wouldn’t have a clue that we won any games.”
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