UNIONDALE, N.Y. – If the New York Islanders can score four goals in the first period regularly, it won’t matter much who is in net behind them.
Mike Comrie, Trent Hunter, Sean Bergenheim and Andy Hilbert all tallied in the first 20 minutes of the home opener, and backup goalie Joey MacDonald made the early offence stand up Saturday night in the Islanders’ 5-2 victory over the St. Louis Blues.
With No. 1 netminder Rick DiPietro watching from the bench as the backup for the second straight night as he works his way back from off-season knee surgery, MacDonald made 24 saves.
MacDonald was sharp again, as he was in New York’s 2-1 loss Friday at New Jersey when he made 27 saves but was outduelled by Martin Brodeur. In just his 19th NHL game, MacDonald made two fine saves against Andy MacDonald and denied Keith Tkachuk’s breakaway chance in the second period, eliciting chants of “Jo-ey! Jo-ey!”
Other than that, he wasn’t heavily tested as St. Louis managed only six shots in each of the first two periods. He improved to 4-9-3 in the NHL.
Bill Guerin’s empty-netter made it 5-2 with 48.7 seconds left.
Brad Boyes trimmed it to 3-1 late in the first with his second goal in two nights, but Chris Mason was ineffective in goal and gave St. Louis little chance to stay in it.
Tkachuk netted his third goal of the season – all on power plays – cutting it to 4-2 at 12:13 of the third. St. Louis scored four power-play goals Friday and beat Nashville 5-2 at home to open the season.
Comrie, who netted the winning goal in New York’s first two games last season, got things rolling 2:18 with his first. Hunter scored on the power play with 6:13 left in the period and Bergenheim made it 3-0 with the Islanders’ second even-strength goal 1:33 later.
Boyes finished off a perfectly executed 3-on-2 rush, steering in a pass from Paul Kariya, at 17:23 to give the Blues some life, but Hilbert netted a short-handed goal with 45.7 seconds remaining to make it 4-1.
Mason, who served as Manny Legace’s backup on Friday, was touched for four goals on 15 shots in the first period – with a few appearing to be of the soft variety.
Hunter’s drive from inside the blue line found its way between Mason’s pads and trickled in. Bergenheim found space under the goalie’s left arm with a wrister from the slot, and Mason left a rebound of Hilbert’s shot that came to defenceman Mark Streit, who found Hilbert with a pass for the putaway.
Mason was perfect the rest of the way, finishing with 29 saves.
Notes: This marked the only regular-season meeting between the teams. They hadn’t faced off since the Blues’ OT win on March 1, 2007. … The Islanders scored only 44 goals in the first period last season, and already have five in two games. … New York D Radek Martinek left with 3:10 remaining in the opening period after being crunched along the boards by St. Louis C David Backes. A team spokesman said Martinek was being evaluated by doctors for an undisclosed injury, and the defenceman didn’t return. … Hilbert didn’t score his first goal last season or record a point until the 20th game. He needed 22 games for his first point the season before. He had a goal and assist on Saturday in just his second game. … St. Louis had won three straight at Nassau Coliseum.