UNIONDALE, N.Y. – As slow as Andy Hilbert’s start has been, last year was even worse.
Hilbert recorded his first goal and point with one second-period shot, and Richard Park snapped a tie in the third to lift the New York Islanders to a 2-1 victory over the Boston Bruins on Saturday.
The unlikely offensive duo of Hilbert and Park entered with one goal between them this season, but they teamed up to give the Islanders a split of the home-and-home series with the Bruins.
Last season, Hilbert notched his first point in the 22nd game, and his first goal came in No. 26. He needed only 20 this time for both.
“Hopefully it’s not a regular occurrence,” Hilbert said. “Last year, once I got it off my chest I got going a little bit, so hopefully it’ll be the same thing.”
One day after dropping a 2-1 decision in Boston, the Islanders returned the favour despite not scoring more than two goals for the eighth straight game. New York is 4-4 in that stretch with a total of 13 goals.
Hilbert tied it in the second, and Park put the Islanders ahead with his second goal at 7:30 of the third when he converted a rebound of Ruslan Fedotenko’s shot past Tim Thomas, the winning goalie Friday.
“My philosophy has always been if we score one more than them, we have a good chance of winning,” Islanders coach Ted Nolan said.
Rick DiPietro earned his split of the series by making 20 saves, and picked up an assist on Hilbert’s goal. DiPietro was a bit dazed with under five minutes left when Boston’s Glen Metropolit struck him in the head behind the net, but he remained in the game and said he was OK.
Thomas finished with 26 saves, and P.J. Axelsson scored for the Bruins, who dropped the first of a six-game road trip. Boston had won four of five.
“I don’t think anyone in this room would say that we played well at all,” said Thomas, a former minor league teammate with Hilbert.
The unlikeliest of scorers finally got the Islanders on the board when Hilbert tied it 1-1 with 2:35 left in the second. Mike Sillinger, who got the puck from DiPietro, fired a cross-ice pass through the neutral zone to Hilbert. The sixth-year forward carried to the top of the left circle and fired a shot between the legs of Bruins defenceman Aaron Ward and past a screened Thomas.
Hilbert hadn’t scored in 27 games, dating to March 24 at Philadelphia, and didn’t even have a point in 20 contests – a stretch going back to April 7, also at Philadelphia, even though he had played all 19 of New York’s games this season.
When he finally found the net, he raised his arms and then emphatically slammed his stick to the ice before heading to the jubilant bench, again with arms up. His teammates mobbed him over the boards, showing every bit as much relief.
“Obviously I’ve been pressing quite a bit. I’ve been getting scoring chances, just none of them have been going in for me. It sure was nice that I finally scored,” Hilbert said. “It was one of those deals where everyone is happy that it’s over with and you don’t have to worry about it anymore.
“Now I can just move on.”
After getting over the hump last season, he finished with eight goals and 28 points.
Hilbert, in his second season with the Islanders, has 24 goals and 62 points in 186 career NHL games. He’s still one point behind DiPietro this season, as the goalie’s assist was his second in 19 games.
“I’ve been playing with him since he was 10. He’s always found the net,” DiPietro said. “I know he’s frustrated, but regardless if he isn’t scoring, he blocks shots, kills penalties, back checks, he does everything right.”
It seemed just a matter of time until the Islanders would score as they dominated in shots. New York had its best defensive period of the season in the first when the shots were 12-2. The margin grew throughout the middle frame and was 23-7 when Hilbert scored.
“I try to keep from looking at that stuff,” DiPietro said. “It’s always a tough game as a goaltender to play when you’re not facing much activity.”
Thomas kept the Bruins in it and made Axelsson’s goal, scored 3:51 into the game, stand up for nearly two periods. He had help as three times in the second the Islanders knocked the puck out of the Boston zone themselves.
“We didn’t put out our best effort,” Bruins forward Marc Savard said. “We didn’t apply any pressure. We just sat back on our heels. Timmy played another great game. We need to go to Philly (Monday) and have 20 guys going, not just a couple. It seemed like we were happy to have the lead and let Timmy do it.”
Notes: DiPietro has nine career NHL assists. … To help the slumping power play that had clicked only once in 23 chances the previous six games, Islanders D Marc-Andre Bergeron rejoined the lineup after being scratched for five. Both teams were 0-for-3. … Boston C Vladimir Sobotka made his NHL debut. … The Bruins have been outshot in 17 of 21 games, but are 10-5-2 in those.