NEW YORK (AP) — The New York Islanders picked up a sorely needed win in their last game before the NHL’s Christmas break.
Mathew Barzal led the way.
Barzal scored three times and Jaroslav Halak made 38 saves, helping the Islanders beat the Winnipeg Jets 5-2 on Saturday.
It was the first career hat trick for the 20-year-old Barzal, who has 12 goals and 23 assists in his rookie season. Jordan Eberle assisted on each of Barzal’s goals, and Andrew Ladd helped on two of them.
“Their line was excellent,” Islanders coach Doug Weight said.
Barzal scored twice in the first period after Anders Lee got New York on the board 1:31 into the game. Barzal, a first-round draft by the Islanders in 2015, scored again at 11:22 of the third.
“Ebs gave me a couple of great passes and Ladder went in there and battled,” he said. “It’s just awesome to get that kind of chemistry going and get a win.”
The Islanders (19-13-4) had dropped two in a row and four of five. Defense has been an issue of late, with New York allowing three or more goals in 10 of its first 11 games this month.
But Halak was able to smother the high-flying Jets, who have one of the best records in the league. He allowed a first-period goal to rookie defenseman Tucker Poolman and a third-period score by Adam Lowry while improving to 10-8-2 on the season.
“We played hard. It’s a good two points for us,” the 32-year-old Halak said. “I felt pretty good throughout the entire game.”
With Winnipeg’s Brandon Tanev in the penalty box for tripping, Lee picked up his 22nd goal of the season. Josh Bailey assisted on the score, extending his point streak to eight games.
Barzal made it 2-0 at 2:20 with a shot that eluded Jets goaltender Steve Mason. After Poolman responded with his first career goal, Barzal restored New York’s two-goal margin with his 11th at 19:24.
“It was great to see him get the hat trick. He’s got composure at a young age.” Weight said. “And it was great for our confidence to be up 2-0. That helped elevate our flow.”
New York’s Anthony Beauvillier added his fourth goal of the season at 15:01 of the third.
At 20-11-6, the Jets still have their best record heading into the Christmas break since they relocated from Atlanta to Winnipeg in 2011. The Jets were a league-best 9-3-2 in November but are 5-5-2 in December.
“We were behind it. When you get down two, you have a problem,” Jets coach Paul Maurice said. “We weren’t good enough to win.”
The Jets will face the Islanders again on Dec. 29 in Winnipeg.
The Islanders are 4-6-2 this month. The only other December game they allowed less than three goals was a 3-1 win over Washington.
NOTES: The Islanders improved to 11-3-3 at home and 12-1-0 when scoring first. … The Islanders are 28-5-6 all-time at Barclays Center against Western Conference opponents. … The Islanders are 9-1-0 on Saturdays this season. … The Islanders announced before the game that defenseman Calvin de Haan will be sidelined indefinitely with an upper-body injury suffered in overtime against Los Angeles on Dec. 16. … Bailey has 36 assists and 46 points overall through 36 games. His career high in points is 56, reached last season.
Jets: Host Edmonton on Wednesday.
Islanders: Host Buffalo on Wednesday.
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