Brooklyn Boro

Isles pick up pair of big wins on trip

Beat Panthers and emerge as one of two finalists in Belmont bid

December 5, 2017 By John Torenli, Sports Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Rookie sensation Mathew Barzal’s first career shootout goal lifted the Islanders to a 5-4 win in Florida on Monday night. AP Photo by Wilfredo Lee
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Hours before they capped off a 5-4 shootout win in Florida on Monday night, the New York Islanders picked up an even bigger victory in their ongoing quest to build a new arena in Elmont, N.Y.

The Brooklyn-based NHL franchise, which is eager to land the large parcel of land adjacent to the legendary Belmont Race Track on Long Island, found out earlier Monday that it was one of only two remaining bids being considered for the coveted spot.

With the withdrawal of the Blumenthal Development bid, the Isles’ New York Arena Partners, LLC proposal, and the one presented earlier this year by the NYCFC soccer club are the only ones in the running.

The good news off the ice was followed by an inspiring result on it as the Isles outlasted the Panthers in front of 11,210 fans at the BB&T Center, putting Florida away on super rookie Mathew Barzal’s first career shootout goal.

“Honestly, I didn’t even have a move coming into it,” Barzal admitted of his first-ever attempt in the league’s game-deciding skills competition.

“I just tried to read off [Florida goaltender James Reimer] a little bit,” the 20-year-old Calder Trophy front-runner as the league’s top first-year player added. “Got in tight there and it’s kind of a move I’ve done for a while now, so I just go with my back hand.”

Jaroslav Halak made 39 saves and stopped all three of Florida’s attempts in the shootout for New York (16-8-2), which still has not gone consecutive games without picking up at least one point this season.

Anders Lee potted his 100th career goal and team captain John Tavares, Thomas Hickey and Brock Nelson also scored for the Islanders, who kicked off a four-game road trip that was slated to continue yesterday night in Tampa Bay.

“It was a grinding win,” said Barzal, who ranks second among all NHL rookies with 24 points this season.

New York jumped in front on Hickey’s first goal of the year at 5:35 of the second stanza, but Florida answered with consecutive power-play goals during an extended man-advantage opportunity that had head coach Doug Weight irate over the officiating.

“It’s good. It’s an emotional game,” Weight said after his team survived the second-period flurry on goals by Nelson and Tavares to take a 4-3 lead before the end of the second period.

“We didn’t agree with everything going on,” he added. “That’s kind of why the game is what it is. It’s fast, it’s unpredictable and your emotions sometimes come out and we paid for it a bit. You know, I got the guys going a little bit on the bench with my rants, but I didn’t agree with a couple calls.”

Florida evened the contest when Denis Malgin lit the lamp just over five minutes into the third period. But the Isles buckled down on defense and carried most of the play over the next 20 minutes before Halak and Barzal emerged as heroes in the shootout round.

“It was a crazy game,” Barzal noted. “A couple good chances in overtime for both teams. We wanted that second point and we’re happy to get it.” 

And team owners Jon Ledecky and Scott Malkin will be even happier if they are the lone group standing when the Empire State Development Corporation makes its final decision on the Belmont site.


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