Edmonton Oilers forward James Neal scored four goals Tuesday against the New York Islanders, showcasing the following message to the league: his scoring touch is back.
The 32-year-old helped Edmonton take a dominating lead on the road in New York with a natural hat trick in the first and second periods. In the third, he added one more, which brought his tally to six through just three games this season — a new Oilers franchise record.
Neal managed only seven goals and 19 points in 63 games last season with the Flames. After being acquired in exchange for Milan Lucic, Neal’s arrival in Edmonton sparked worries that he was no longer a reliable 20+ goal-scorer, but Neal appears rejuvenated playing in a new system under head coach Dave Tippett.
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Let’s take a look at each of Neal’s four goals Tuesday:
The Oilers allowed the game’s first goal to New York’s Anthony Beauvillier, but Neal got Edmonton on the board toward the end of the first period by cycling the puck around the net and positioning himself at the edge of the faceoff circle for a slapshot that buzzed right past Islanders goalie Thomas Greiss’ blocker.
On the power play with under a minute remaining in the first, Neal set up on Greiss’ glove side in front of the net. Connor McDavid and Neal executed a give-and-go during the man advantage, and the second time Edmonton’s captain sent the puck to Neal’s stick, the opposing defenders had allowed No. 18 just enough space for him to slide the puck around Greiss for his second goal of the period.
Another power-play opportunity saw Neal finish off some tic-tac-toe passing from the Oilers’ special teams unit. McDavid cross-ice to Leon Draisaitl, who appeared to fire a one-time shot from the right side, but ii was aimed just wide left at Neal, who redirected it for the natural hat trick.
Neal scored yet again on a bad-angle wrist shot that went right through Greiss’ five-hole and trickled into the net.
Neal is the second player to score four goals this season, joining Detroit Red Wings forward Anthony Mantha’s Oct. 6 performance.
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