First, he was “the kid who won the Calder.”
Now, Mathew Barzal is the kid who scored a hat-trick.
The young Islanders scored three goals in the span of eight minutes for the natural hat-trick and helped lead the Islanders to a 4-0 shutout over former captain John Tavares and the Toronto Maple Leafs. Barzal was the first Islander to record a hat trick against the Maple Leafs since Mike Bossy did so on March 20, 1986, according to Eric Hornick.
“I was fortunate enough to get a couple bounces,” Barzal told reporters. “(Josh Bailey) made the good play there. The power play has been clicking a little bit. Just a great win overall.”
On a night that was supposed to be all about Tavares squaring off against his former team for the first time since leaving via free agency, Barzal stole the show. Already ahead 1-0, Barzal put the Islanders up by two less than three minutes into the second period.
The 21-year-old tipped a shot from the point past the Leafs’ starter Garret Sparks for his first of the night. Barzal made it 3-0 minutes later when he ripped a shot from the left side faceoff circle.
Barzal capped things off when he took advantage of an odd-man rush off a turnover.
“It’s exciting, not only for me but I think for his teammates,” Barry Trotz told MSG Network’s Shannon Hogan after the win. “I think for him because he’s becoming more efficient… You have a young player who’s learning and growing his game to the pro level and not just be a good talent, but be a complete player. Then you see the result of a good team effort, that just builds moment for the player to understand how important it is to play the right way every night.
“He’s a great talent to watch.”
The Islanders only other goal scorer on Saturday was Valtteri Filppula, who scored an impressive goal of his own to open the scoring in the first period. Robin Lehner made 36 saves in the win for the Islanders.
Lehner also became the first Islanders’ goaltender to record a shutout in Toronto. The win also helped Trotz record his 782nd career win to tie the legendary Al Arbour for fourth on the all-time wins list.
Trotz was somewhat unaware of the milestone.
“I had to ask some of the guys back here why they were congratulating (me). I wasn’t quite sure,” Trotz said. “It’s an honor to even be in the same breath as a Al.”
The win was a big one for the Islanders and came during an emotional night in the center of the hockey universe. The build-up to Saturday night had been about John Tavares and how it would be to face the team he spent nine years with before leaving for Toronto last July.
After the game, Tavares told reporters that the hardest part was the warmups, according to Kristen Shilton of TSN.
“You get a good sense of looking at the jersey and looking at your opponent,” Tavares said. “Obviously I’ve never looked at the Islanders jersey like that way. That was different. I felt things were a lot more normal in the second and third.”