UNIONDALE, N.Y. (AP) — Matt Martin and Adam Pelech scored first-period goals, rookie Ilya Sorokin made 19 saves and the New York Islanders welcomed fans back to Nassau Coliseum by beating the New Jersey Devils 5-3 on Thursday night for their seventh straight win.
The first-place Islanders are 12-0-2 at the arena this year, and this win came with 1,000 frontline workers in the stands. They were the first fans at Nassau Coliseum since March 7, 2020, five days before last season was suspended due to the pandemic.
“It was special with all the sacrifices they made, all the long hours and sleepless nights,” Martin said. “We are grateful for them to be the first ones in the stands watching Islander hockey.”
Noah Dobson, Josh Bailey and Brock Nelson also scored for the Islanders. Sorokin won for the fifth time.
The Devils scored three times in the third period. Janne Kuokkanen and Mikhail Maltsev tallied 40 seconds apart, and Jack Hughes scored his sixth goal of the season at 15:52. Mackenzie Blackwood stopped 29 shots.
Martin opened the scoring at 3:15 of the first when his shot from just inside the blue line eluded Blackwood for his fifth goal of the season.
Pelech made it 2-0 at 9:54 when his shot from the left point found the net.
Anders Lee had to leave the game shortly after that goal when he became entangled with Pavel Zacha of the Devils in front of the Islanders net. Lee kept weight off his right leg as he was helped off the ice. The Islanders captain was playing his 295th consecutive game dating to January 2017, the third-longest streak in team history behind Bob Nystrom and Billy Harris. He leads the Islanders with 12 goals.
Islanders coach Barry Trotz didn’t have an update on Lee’s condition following the game.
“Anders is our captain, our leader. He’s got total respect our whole team,” Trotz said. ”Everyone on our bench felt for him there.”
Dobson extended the lead to 3-0 at 14:05 of the second period with his third goal of the season.
All six defenseman for the Islanders registered points in the game, with Ryan Pulock getting two assists and Nick Leddy, Andy Greene and Scott Mayfield getting one each in addition to the goals by Dobson and Pelech. The same six blue liners have played in all 27 games this season.
Bailey made it 4-0 at 17:13 of the second with his third goal of the season. Nelson scored again for the home team at 4:44 of the third, his 11th goal of the season to extend his goals streak to four games and his points streak to five. Pulock added his second assist of the contest on Nelson’s goal.
“Everyone was chipping in,” Pulock said. ”We want to help out our forwards.”
The Islanders improved to 9-0-1 in their last 10 games while the struggling Devils, with just one victory in their last eight contests, are 2-8-1 over their last 11.
“We weren’t skating well, it seemed like our energy was low and we didn’t pass the puck well,” Devils coach Lindy Ruff said. ”If we’re going to get behind the 8-ball every game, it’s going to make it really hard on this group.”
After playing nine of the last 10 games at home, the Islanders will play eight of their next 10 on the road.
Trotz became the third Islanders coach to win 100 games, joining Al Arbour and Jack Capuano. Lou Lamoriello became the fourth Long Island general manager to win 100 games, joining Bill Torrey, Mike Milbury and Garth Snow.