There’s a new NHL Goal of the Year contender, courtesy of the Islanders.
Mathew Barzal sped into a puck that bounced off the boards at center ice, tracked it down just in front of the opposing blue line, curved his body to fight off Sabres defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen and created open space in front of the net.
But the best was still to come.
As he came in at an angle, Barzal slowed down, put the puck back through his legs and shot it from behind his back with the goalie completely out of position as he followed Barzal’s body and not his stick or the puck. It was the highlight of the Islanders’ 5-2 win over the reeling Sabres in at Nassau Coliseum on Saturday.
Ristolainen had the angle to cut off Barzal but wound up tumbling onto his boot and nearly crashing into the boards as he lost the 1-on-1 battle.
It’s not the first time Barzal has scored between his legs. He scored in a similar fashion against the Stars last season, after a wide shot from the point bounced off the boards and he put his stick in an indefensible position.
Brock Nelson scored the go-ahead goal in the second while Cal Clutterbuck and defenseman Scott Mayfield also tallied in the period for the Islanders, who are 6-0-1 in their last seven games. Captain Anders Lee added a goal in the third.
Semyon Varlamov made 20 saves to preserve the victory.
Defenseman Jacob Bryson scored his first NHL goal and Sam Reinhart also tallied for the Sabres, who have lost six straight (0-5-1) and are 2-9-1 since returning from a COVID-19 pause on Feb. 15. Goalie Carter Hutton recorded 24 saves.
The Sabres went ahead right away after a turnover deep in the Islanders zone by Casey Cizikas led to Bryson’s goal just 33 seconds into the first period.
The Islanders took control with three goals in just under a span of five minutes in the second period.
The Islanders took the lead for good just 85 seconds later Barzal’s goal. Nelson got open in the slot, took a pass from Anthony Beauvillier and fired a shot beyond the stick of Colin Miller and into the upper corner of the net.
The fourth line combined to extend the lead to 3-1 with 11:15 left, when Matt Martin passed the puck beyond Sabres captain Jack Eichel to Clutterbuck, who beat Hutton from point-blank range.
Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Matthew Dal Colle teamed up to win a battle for the puck near center ice to set up Mayfield’s goal with 4:31 remaining. After Pageau and Dal Colle outlasted Miller and Victor Oloffson, the puck bounced to Cizikas, who passed to Mayfield to set up the defenseman’s shot past a sprawling Hutton.
Reinhart redirected a shot by defenseman Rasmus Dahlin 52 seconds into the third, but Lee ended any hopes of a Sabres comeback by putting back his own rebound just 1:23 later.
— with Field Level Media