The New York Islanders knew they needed to take advantage of the Atlanta Thrashers at home before heading out on a seven-game road trip.
They did exactly that, generating season highs for goals and shots in a 6-3 victory over the Thrashers on Saturday night.
“After a couple of losses and going on the road and we have a couple of teams that are playing well, it’s big for us,” said rookie centre John Tavares, who set up two goals. “We needed this. We’ll have our confidence up the next couple of days, get our rest and get ready for some tough games to come.”
Sean Bergenheim, Blake Comeau and Jack Hillen each scored their first goals of the season for the Islanders (6-6-5), who had won four in a row before their two-game skid. Their 45 shots were six more than their previous season high. The Islanders got points from 13 players.
“That’s a feel-good for everybody,” Islanders coach Scott Gordon said. “If you can get balanced scoring, you’re a lot harder to play against.”
New York came out aggressively against the Thrashers (6-6-1), outscoring them 3-1 in the first period on goals by Andy Sutton, Bergenheim and Hillen. The Islanders outshot Atlanta 21-11 in the opening frame.
“We just tried to simplify, get a good forecheck and put pucks to the net,” Tavares said. “Once we got to them early, we really started getting the confidence going and believe in what we were doing, and it was working.”
Tavares carried the puck across to the high slot and fed Sutton at the left doorstep, and the defenceman backhanded it past Ondrej Pavelec (39 saves) at 9:11 to make it 1-0.
Zach Bogosian, Pavel Kubina, and Christoph Schubert scored for Atlanta.
Bogosian beat Dwayne Roloson (31 saves) from the top of the right circle with 7:04 to go in the period. But Bergenheim put the Islanders ahead 38 seconds later, converting a rebound in front.
Hillen scored from out near the left point with 1:04 remaining in the period to make it 3-1.
The Islanders wasted no time in the second period. Comeau, chosen as first star of the game, carried the puck into the Atlanta zone and ripped a shot past Pavelec’s glove just 22 seconds into the period.
Comeau also had an assist after having been a healthy scratch the previous six games. He was reinserted into the lineup because forward Doug Weight is expected to be out for a week due to an upper body injury.
“There were nerves,” Comeau said. “I was joking around with a couple of the guys that it felt like my first NHL game. I think once the puck dropped, I played the way I normally play.”
After Kubina cut it to 4-2 with a one-timer from the left dot, Tavares carried the puck behind the net and sent it to Matt Moulson between the circles. Moulson scored his team-high seventh of the season to make it a three-goal game again with 8:01 remaining in the period.
Schubert scored his first of the season with 7:57 to go in regulation to cut the deficit to 5-3. But Josh Bailey increased the margin to three with a power-play goal with 4:25 left.
“It was like we had three or four guys show up and the rest of the guys didn’t,” Atlanta coach John Anderson said. “That’s embarrassing. We can’t play like that. That’s absolutely embarrassing.”
The Thrashers, 5-2-1 on the road compared to 1-4 at home, played again without their best player, Ilya Kovalchuk. The star forward was lost for about a month when he broke his right foot on Oct. 24.
But the Islanders were without one of their best players, as well. The team announced before the game that top defenceman Radek Martinek would be out for the season because of a torn ligament in his right knee. Martinek was injured Friday night during a 2-1 loss at New Jersey.
Martinek wasn’t missed too much against the Thrashers.
“The Islanders haven’t had over 40 shots in any game this season,” Anderson said. “What does that tell you? I got to give them a lot of credit because they played hard after playing last night, took a hard defeat and came back and played very, very hard. They played a great game. That was the worst game I’ve seen us play this year.”
NOTES: This was the Islanders’ final home game until Nov. 25. They have 12 of their next 14 games on the road, including the next seven, beginning Wednesday night at Washington. … The Thrashers finish a back-to-back set at home on Sunday against the St. Louis Blues.