UNIONDALE, N.Y. – Not only did defenceman Andrew MacDonald have his first two-goal game of his NHL career, he nearly found the net a third time.
Only a goal post prevented that unlikeliest of feats in the New York Islanders’ 5-2 win over the St. Louis Blues. MacDonald, who entered his 100th NHL game with only three career goals, has three in two games. Each one Saturday gave the Islanders a three-goal lead.
“I wouldn’t expect that to happen too often,” he said with a smile. “The hat trick would’ve been nice, but two goals is more than plenty.”
MacDonald and his teammates are happy with his overall game, even though his efforts rarely show up on the score sheet. He eats up ice time, blocks shots, and has grown into a leadership role inside the dressing room of the young Islanders.
“He’s been a guy we can rely on back there,” said coach Jack Capuano, who improved to 21-21-6 since replacing the fired Scott Gordon.
John Tavares and P.A. Parenteau both had a goal and an assist in the first period to jump-start the offence and set the tone against the sinking Blues.
St. Louis has dropped four straight and is 1-7 in its last eight games. The Blues have fallen to 13th place in the Western Conference, well out of the playoff chase.
“Everything is wrong,” said David Backes, the Blues’ leading goal scorer. “It’s not very enjoyable to be here every day.”
Al Montoya made 21 saves, giving up Andy McDonald’s 14th of the season 3:26 into the third period that made it 3-1 and Chris Stewart’s power-play tally that brought the Blues within 4-2 with 9:42 remaining.
The Islanders won their second in a row at home over a Western opponent following an overall four-game skid (0-2-2). Rookie Michael Grabner put this one away with 7:35 left, netting his 26th.
Ben Bishop, who at six foot seven is the NHL’s tallest goalie, made his fourth start in five games and stopped 17 shots for the Blues. He had an eventful first period in which he allowed two goals and nearly got victimized when he got caught well out of the net by Parenteau.
“We should’ve counted our blessings,” Backes said.
Parenteau beat Bishop to a loose puck inside the blue line, skated around the goalie in open ice, but then shot wide from a tough angle instead of skating closer to the vacated net. It didn’t matter because Parenteau was on the mark the rest of the period.
“The two shifts after I missed the open net, I was like, ‘Whoa. What am I doing?'” said Parenteau, who broke a 10-game goal drought. “I couldn’t believe I missed it. It feels good we got the win. That’s all that matters.”
A falling Parenteau made a brilliant pass behind his back to Tavares after taking a quick look over his shoulder. The feed from the right-wing boards caught Tavares in stride as he streaked down the middle of the St. Louis zone. Tavares made a move to get around T.J. Oshie, shifted to his backhand, eluded defenceman Alex Pietrangelo, and shoved a backhander inside the right post at 9:12 for his 24th goal.
Unhappy with his team’s sluggish start, Blues coach Davis Payne burned his timeout but got little in return.
“Not enough intensity,” Payne said. “We believe we have the right kind of players. We just need the right kind of effort.”
Parenteau was the beneficiary of a great pass to make it 2-0. Tavares nudged the puck in the neutral zone to Grabner, who carried it down the left side and sent a feed in front to Parenteau for a quick redirection with 50.1 seconds remaining.
MacDonald stretched the Islanders’ lead to 3-0 with 7:11 left in the second on New York’s 12th shot. Josh Bailey did most of the work, creating chances and keeping the puck alive in the zone throughout his shift.
Bailey got the puck to Matt Martin in the left circle as he fell, and Martin spotted MacDonald free at the centre of the blue-line for a slap shot past Bishop.
The second goal came on a breakaway, capped off with a rising shot one would expect from a seasoned goal-scorer.
“I think that was honestly my first breakaway of my life,” MacDonald said. “I knew there was a guy coming from my right. I looked up as I pushed the puck and I saw high glove was there. I just tried to get the shot off without stick-handling. Luckily it went in.”
Notes: MacDonald has four goals in 51 games this season. … The Blues were the only team the Islanders hadn’t faced this season. New York went 8-5-5 against the West and will play only Eastern Conference clubs in its final 16 games. … Blues D Ian Cole, recalled from Peoria (AHL) on Friday, was in the lineup in place of D Roman Polak.