Staal, Kunin lift Wild to win over Islanders
SAINT PAUL, Minn. — Statistically, the New York Islanders currently have the worst power play in the NHL. You didn’t need a stat sheet to see that on Thursday.
The Islanders surrendered two short-handed goals and were 0 of 5 on the power play as the Minnesota Wild won their first home game of the season, beating New York 6-4.
Eric Staal and rookie Luke Kunin both scored short-handed goals for Minnesota. For Staal, it was his 18th career short-handed goal to give the Wild a 3-0 lead late in the first period. He then assisted on Kunin’s short-handed goal in the second.
Marcus Foligno, Jason Zucker, Jonas Brodin and Zack Mitchell added even-strength goals for Minnesota (3-3-2), which built a 6-2 lead before holding on for its first home win of the season.
Nick Leddy, Anders Lee, Mathew Barzal and Anthony Beauvillier scored for the Islanders (5-4-1), who saw their three-game winning streak snapped.
“If we had all the answers I don’t think we’d be in this situation,” Islanders captain John Tavares said.
His team has scored on six percent of its power play chances this season, and has now allowed five short-handed goals.
“First and foremost, we just got to compete and look at how hard the penalty kill is working out there. We want our work ethic to be high and obviously with the skill we have on the ice you don’t want to try and do too much, you want to keep it simple and go from there.”
Thanks to a pair of early penalties on the Islanders, the Wild got 40 seconds of five-on-three power play time and outshot their visitors 10-0 in the first five minutes of the game.
Foligno gave Minnesota the early lead, scoring off a rebound of a long-range blast by defenseman Jared Spurgeon. It was the second goal of the year for Foligno, who is playing with a full cage facemask due to a fractured facial bone.
Zucker doubled the lead two minutes later off a nice feed from Mikael Granlund, and Staal got Minnesota’s first short-handed goal of the season, scoring on a breakaway after Leddy fumbled a puck at the blue line.
“I thought the first 12 minutes or so it was as good a start as you could hope for,” said Wild coach Bruce Boudreau, who had come down hard on his team after a listless 1-0 loss to Vancouver on Tuesday.
The Islanders finally had an answer when Beauvillier tipped a shot by Johnny Boychuk between Minnesota goalie Devan Dubnyk’s knees to make it 3-1 after 20 minutes.
The teams traded goals in the second, with Kunin scoring his first NHL goal, for a 4-1 lead 7:17 into the period.
“I think he’s a smart player. I think smart players figure out this league takes time. It doesn’t happen instantly,” Staal said of Kunin. “It’s going to take him a little bit to adjust to how defensemen play, how we forecheck. I think you’re seeing some of those things start to develop. When you have good players, smart players, they figure that out and I think he’ll get stronger.”
Leddy made up for his defensive mistake with a goal in the final 90 seconds of the middle period as Minnesota led 4-2 after two.
“It was a game I thought we were never out of, even when it was 5-2, so it’s really, really disappointing the way we come off three wins heading out on the road,” New York coach Doug Weight said. “We look like a bad road team with the exception of two or three forwards.”
Mitchell got his first NHL goal in the third period, followed quickly by Brodin, who got his first goal of the season.
Lee scored near the midway point of the third for the Islanders to pull them back within three. Barzal scored with 3.1 seconds left for the final margin.
Thomas Greiss made 27 saves for New York, and Dubnyk stopped 29 shots.
NOTES: Injured Wild RW Nino Niederreiter skated with the team in practice but was unable to play in the game. He has now missed five games with a high left ankle sprain. ... After making him a healthy scratch in their previous two games, the Islanders sent F Josh Ho-Sang to their Bridgeport AHL team before the road trip in order to get him some on-ice time. ... Rookie RW Luke Kunin, signed late last season from the University of Wisconsin, became the first player in Wild history to score his first NHL goal short-handed. ... Minnesota hosts the Penguins on Saturday. The Islanders visit Nashville on Saturday.