Unlikely hero emerges as Isles snap skid
Kuhnhackl tallies twice in much-needed 5-2 win over Canucks
Tom Kuhnhackl skated in 69 games with the Pittsburgh Penguins last season, managing just two goals.
It took him seven games to surpass that total as a New York Islander, including a pair of big — albeit fortunate — tallies in Tuesday night’s slump-busting 5-2 victory over the Vancouver Canucks in front of 8,806 fans at Downtown’s Barclays Center.
“Today we were a little sluggish out of the box, and then we got going,” Isles head coach Barry Trotz said after the Brooklyn-based NHL franchise ended its season-high three-game losing streak.
“We got a second-effort goal by Tommy Kuhnhackl and then we got a quick response, and then I thought we were real good for the rest of the period,” added Trotz.
Kuhnhackl, hardly known as an offensive weapon during his first three seasons in Pittsburgh, where he scored 11 times in 168 contests, knotted the contest at 1-1 at 5:11 of the opening period with the unlikeliest of goals.
The 26-year-old German winger found himself falling to the ice with his back to the net when he somehow launched a no-look shot that eluded Canucks goaltender Jacob Markstrom.
“It takes a lot of luck that the puck somehow squeezes in, but I heard good things happen when you throw pucks on net,” Kuhnhackl said after upping his season goal total to three.
With the Isles clinging to a 3-2 lead in the second stanza, Kuhnhackl struck again, lunging for a loose puck in front of the net that deflected off his skate and through Markstrom.
Following a video review, the goal stood and Kuhnhackl had the first multi-goal game of his career.
Josh Bailey and Jordan Eberle also scored for New York, and Cal Clutterbuck ended a personal 51-game goal-scoring drought in the third period, when he produced the Isles’ first power-play tally in the last 20 attempts.
“I was really happy for Cal getting one,” said Trotz as the Isles inched within two points of Columbus for the top spot in the Metropolitan Division.
“He said there was a monkey on his back, but it was more like a gorilla. For him to get that out, the guys were really happy.”
Clutterbuck was also grateful to get off the schneid and help the Isles get back in the win column after three painful defeats that partially offset their strong start to the campaign.
“There’s different times of the year, just because it’s not April doesn’t mean it’s not a must-win,” Clutterbuck said. “You don’t want to give a five-game winning streak back.”
Points will be at a premium again Thursday night when the Isles host the archrival New York Rangers at Barclays Center.
Both teams have 20 points entering the contest, which is the first of four meetings between the interborough rivals this year.
“We knew that today we had to dig in and win it,” noted Clutterbuck. “Teams in our division have been winning games, so you can’t underestimate the value of those points.”
Isle Have Another: Goaltender Thomas Greiss stopped 22 shots for New York. … Veteran left winger Andrew Ladd left Tuesday night’s game in the second period with an apparent right leg injury and did not return. Trotz did not indicate the severity of the ailment, which could keep Ladd out of Thursday night’s clash with the Rangers. He did say that Trotz would be re-evaluated on Wednesday. … Brock Nelson, the team leader with eight goals thus far this season, picked up two assists Tuesday, the first of which gave him 200 career points. Reigning Calder Trophy winner Mathew Barzal also had two helpers against the Canucks, giving him 100 career points in just 101 games as an Islander.
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Senior forward Raiquan Clark scored a season-high 33 points, including the game-winning jumper with 1.3 seconds to play, as LIU-Brooklyn remained unbeaten Tuesday night with a thrilling 89-87 victory over Fairfield in Bridgeport, Connecticut.
Clark, who also splashed a go-ahead 3-pointer with 37 seconds remaining, went 14-of-22 from the floor, including 3-of-6 from long range.
The New Haven, Conn., native also blocked a pair of shots and picked up a steal during his impressive 30-minute stint for the defending Northeast Conference champions.
Sophomore Ty Flowers added a career-best 23 points, misfiring on just one of seven attempts from the 3-point arc, and senior Raul Frias chipped in with 13 points as the Blackbirds improved to 3-0 heading into Sunday night’s visit to the University of San Francisco, matching their best start since the 2016-17 campaign.