UNIONDALE, N.Y. – It was as if Matt Moulson never left the New York Islanders.
He was scoring goals, hearing cheers and chants of his name at Nassau Coliseum, and waving his stick to the crowd after being chosen as the game’s No. 1 star. And none of the fans decked out in orange and blue seemed to mind a bit that he was doing major damage against the home team while wearing a Minnesota Wild sweater.
In his first game as an Islanders opponent since being dealt, Moulson scored two goals and had three points in the Wild’s 6-0 rout of New York on Tuesday night.
“I was pretty nervous. I don’t think I slept a minute during pregame nap,” Moulson said. “I was here for a long time. This team had a big place in my heart when I was here. The fans give great support. It was pretty emotional.”
Ilya Bryzgalov made 16 of his 36 saves in the first period when the Wild took a 2-0 lead. Minnesota made the most of 22 shots on a night coach Mike Yeo switched up his lines.
“It some ways, you feel a little bit bad. You don’t want to sit there and run up the score. That’s not the intention there,” Yeo said. “(Moulson) is a guy that is obviously very, very well respected here. You see what the crowd is doing in a game like that. I thought that was very classy.”
Frustration was also noticeable in the crowd that is fed up with general manager Garth Snow, who not only traded Moulson, but this month also dealt Thomas Vanek—the key player acquired when Moulson was sent to Buffalo.
Moulson, like Vanek an impending free agent, was traded by Buffalo to Minnesota this month. He scored the first of the Wild’s two goals in the opening period and their third in the final frame.
“Anytime a trade happens or something when you switch teams, you have something to prove,” Moulson said. “I had a lot of family and friends here so I made sure I didn’t embarrass them.”
Wild forward Zach Parise will have a similar experience Thursday when the former Devils star plays in New Jersey for the first time since leaving as a free agent.
“It’s a little different situation. He got traded and I didn’t,” Parise said with a laugh. “I don’t know how it’s going to be when I get there.”
Jared Spurgeon, a sixth-round pick of the Islanders in the 2008 draft, made it 2-0.
Mikael Granlund pushed the lead to 3-0 in the second, defenceman Clayton Stoner scored his first goal of the season on a breakaway in the third, and Justin Fontaine was credited with a goal after a video review to make it 5-0. Mikko Koivu had three assists to move past Marian Gaborik for the most points in Wild history with 438.
Moulson closed the scoring with a power-play goal with 3:26 left. It was his 20th of the season and third in seven games with Minnesota.
“I think the trade was pretty tough on him,” Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. “I’ve seen him do what he did tonight many times.”
Bryzgalov earned his second shutout of the season and 32nd in the NHL.
Anders Nilsson stopped 16 shots for New York, but couldn’t match his fine performance of Saturday night when he beat Buffalo with a 33-save effort.
Moulson’s name was cheered when announced as part of the Wild’s starting lineup, then he was feted with more applause when the Islanders thanked him on the video board. A louder roar went up when he scored his first goal 12:23 in.
After his second, fans chanted “We want Moulson!”
“I knew from playing against him here that he was a fan favourite,” Parise said. “I don’t think anyone expected the ‘We Love Moulson’ cheers at the end, but it was nice to see him get a good reception.”
Spurgeon, a defenceman who never played for the Islanders, took a pass from Dany Heatley and one-timed a hard drive with 4:03 left in the first.
Granlund’s seventh of the season, gave the Wild a three-goal edge with 3:58 remaining in the second.
Fontaine’s 13th goal zipped in and out of the net 7:06 into the third, but play continued for over a minute before a video review took place. Moulson and Koivu earned assists.
NOTES: New York D Brian Strait broke his left hand while blocking a shot in the second period. … Moulson, who began his NHL career with Los Angeles, has three goals in two career games vs. New York. He had 118 goals and 105 assists in 304 games with the Islanders. … Islanders D Kevin Czuczman made his NHL debut. … The Wild were whistled for penalties for the first time in three games.