NEW YORK — Mathew Barzal continued to cement his status as one of the most exciting young players in the NHL by recording his first career hat trick Saturday afternoon.
But the New York Islanders were more encouraged by the goals that weren’t scored by the Winnipeg Jets.
Barzal provided the Islanders with all the offense they needed when Jaroslav Halak produced a much-needed stout effort in goal by recording 38 saves in a 5-2 win over the Jets at Barclays Center.
The win snapped a two-game losing streak for the Islanders, who allowed 11 goals in falling earlier this week to the Detroit Red Wings and Anaheim Ducks. It also allowed goalies Halak and Thomas Greiss to enter the holiday break feeling a little better about themselves.
“It was a good win — that’s a good team, they generate a lot,” Islanders coach Doug Weight said. “So it was a good test for us, going through some issues. It was a good challenge and I think it was well goaltended.”
Halak and Greiss have combined for an .895 save percentage. While the Islanders (19-13-4) hit the holidays with one of the Eastern Conference wild-card spots, only one playoff team in the last 10 seasons has qualified for the postseason with a worse save percentage from its goalies. The 2008-09 Detroit Red Wings had a save percentage of .894.
“Obviously it’s not ideal, the goals against right now, our save percentage,” Halak said.
Halak was at his best in the third period when the Islanders, nursing a 3-1 lead, were outshot 9-4 in the opening 10 minutes, including 5-0 in the first 3:07.
“They had some good chances,” Weight said. “Jaro stepped up big. Great win for us.”
It was a memorable day as well for Barzal, who scored twice in the first period and completed his hat trick by scoring with 8:37 left. At 20 years and 211 days old, Barzal is the youngest Islanders player to record a hat trick since current New York captain John Tavares did so at 20 years and 117 days on Jan. 15, 2011.
Barzal’s athleticism and ability to work wonders with the puck were on display in all three goals. On his first goal, Barzal weaved past Jets center Bryan Little, got a stick on a pass from behind the net by Jordan Eberle and tucked the puck past Steve Mason to give the Islanders a 2-0 lead just 2:20 into the game.
Barzal set up his second goal with 35.7 seconds remaining in the first by controlling the puck as he twice eluded Little around the left faceoff circle before he managed to fit the puck into the corner of the net to extend the Islanders’ lead to 3-1.
Barzal broke free deep in the Jets’ zone and completed the hat trick with 8:38 left in the third when he took another Eberle pass from behind the net and beat Mason from point-blank range.
“It was an all-around effort with my linemates tonight — ‘Ebs’ gave me a couple great passes,” Barzal said. “It’s just awesome to get that chemistry going and get a win.”
Anders Lee opened the scoring for the Islanders just 91 seconds after faceoff while Anthony Beauvillier scored with 4:59 remaining.
Tucker Poolman scored his first career goal in the first period and Adam Lowry scored with 1:36 left in the third for the Jets (20-11-7), who ended a four-game road trip with three straight losses (0-2-1).
“We were just behind it,” Jets coach Paul Maurice said. “When you get down two, you’ve got a problem.”
Mason made 24 saves for the Jets, who began Saturday in a three-way tie for first place in the Central Division with the Nashville Predators and St. Louis Blues. Winnipeg has not been in first place at the Christmas break since the franchise relocated from Atlanta following the 2010-11 season.
“We weren’t good enough to win the game tonight,” Maurice said. “That’s it.”
NOTES: The Islanders scratched RW Steve Bernier, C Alan Quine and D Dennis Seidenberg. ... Islanders coach Doug Weight said D Calvin de Haan, who suffered a shoulder injury Dec. 16, is out indefinitely. Weight said it was not yet certain if de Haan would undergo surgery. ... The Jets scratched C Marko Dano, C Shawn Matthias and D Julian Melchiori. ... While the current incarnation of the Jets has never been alone in first place at the Christmas break, the Atlanta Thrashers twice reached the break atop the Southeast Division (2003-04 and 2006-07).