Just two games into the New York Islanders season, F Matt Moulson already has two more shootout goals than he did attempts last year.
That means Moulson, the Islanders left winger who scored in the tiebreaker both Friday for a win over the Devils and to temporarily keep the Islanders alive in an eventual loss to Columbus on Saturday, didn’t shoot once in the Islanders’ seven shootouts last season. New York went 4-3 in shootouts last year and all seven times Moulson, the team’s second leading scorer, never took a shot.
If any of the first 12 shooters Friday night had scored, it’s conceivable Moulson would have sat out once again. Instead, his number was called on to make a difference in a game Friday where he admitted to playing poorly.
“It’s just one of those times where an opportunity presents itself,” Moulson said Monday after practice. “You try to get a win for the team and you want to be that guy who does it.”
In the first game, Moulson beat Devils G Martin Brodeur to the blocker side, skating in deep before using a quick forehand move to the upper left corner. He succeeded with that move again the next night.
“He got us some big goals, so you stay with the hot hand,” Coach Jack Capuano said of his decision to move Moulson into the top three for Saturday’s shootout.
Moulson’s non-presence in shootouts last year is somewhat puzzling, too, because he has actually been successful in the breakaway challenge.
Following his two shootout successes this year, Moulson’s scoring percentage is 53 percent (8-for-15) – the second-highest success rate among active players with at least 15 attempts. Only the Predators’ Matt Hendricks, who has converted nine of his 15 attempts (60 pct), has scored at a better clip.
“He’s obviously a good goal scorer,” John Tavares, who has missed in both shootouts this year, said. “He just goes down there and always seems to pick corners.”
Moulson’s two goals have put him at a slightly higher success rate than the third man on that list – fellow Islander and shootout expert Frans Nielsen. Nielsen is 25-for-47 in his career – good for the 11th-most goals in history and easily the highest percentage of anyone with at least 19 goals in history.
However, the “Danish Backhand of Judgment” has missed his last six attempts, including two misses to start this year.
“It’s not working, but we’ll see if I’m out there next time,” said Nielsen, who missed both attempts despite going with his most successful move both times – the forehand-fake-backhand. “Hopefully I’ll score one soon and get some confidence back at it.”
Despite Nielsen’s uncertainty about when his next chance may come, Capuano spoke confidently about his historically best shooter, saying, “He’s going to get better obviously.”
The numerous shootout options on the team have led Capuano to being noncommital to having a set lineup, saying he goes with his gut and watches guys in practice, but sometime he may have to mix it up.
Moulson said he’s not thinking about being statistically ahead of Nielsen this season or catching Hendricks with a goal in his next attempt. He just wants the chance to make a difference any way he can.
“You want to go out there and help your team and try to get the win,” Moulson said. “That’s all you think about.”
Donovan gets his first
Rookie defenseman Matt Donovan broke through with his first goal of the season Tuesday night vs. the visiting Phoenix Coyotes. Donovan, who had a strong camp and made the team after an impressive two-year campaign at Bridgeport, looks to eventually take the place of departed Mark Streit.
His goal Tuesday certainly looked Streit-esque. The lefty appeared to slightly bobble the puck at the blue line, regained control in time to fake a forehand pass before turning back to his left. His poise in the moment was evident as he took his time to take a step or two before winding up with a blast. It eventually trickled down and through to give the Islanders a 3-0 lead in the second period.
“(I) walked the blue line and kind of faked the pass back and just tried to put it on net and luckily it trickled in,” a smiling Donovan said to Peter Ruttgaizer during the between-periods-interview on MSG Plus.
Donovan spoke about making contributions to the Islanders in late September.
F Cal Clutterbuck is close to making his Islanders debut, Islanders announcer Howie Rose said during the broadcast Tuesday. Clutterbuck suffered a deep laceration from a skate during a preseason game and was expected to be out several weeks. Clutterbuck, who the Islanders received in a trade with Minnesota for prospect Nino Niederreiter last summer, is expected to bring an energetic style to a lineup that’s already playing well, having garnered five out of a possible six points so far. The big question now: Who will go down? Rookie forwards Brock Nelson and Peter Regin would seem to be the leading candidates. They were among the players with the fewest minutes Tuesday – 11:59 and 11:56, respectively. Regin, however, did score a goal Tuesday. F Colin McDonald played the third-fewest minutes with just 12:33 TOI… F Frans Nielsen’s stunning slash on fellow Dane and friend Mikkel Boedker was as shocking for its viciousness as the 2-minute penalty was for its punishment … Eric Nystrom, son of the legendary Bob Nystrom, scored the 47th goal of his career Tuesday on a penalty shot. Born in the final year of the Islanders’ dynasty, the 30-year-old Eric will have to pick up the pace to catch “Mr. Islander,” however. The elder Nystrom, 60 years old now, scored 235 goals in 900 career games – all for the orange and blue, of course. Then again, considering Eric is still just days into a 4-year/$10M deal with the Predators, he probably isn’t complaining too much.
- Additional reporting by Joey Delgado