UNIONDALE, N.Y. (AP)—This time, Jason Blake got the traditional salute for his three-goal effort.
Blake netted his second career hat trick to lift New York to a 3-1 victory Friday night over the Minnesota Wild and move the Islanders closer to their third straight playoff appearance.
Blake’s first NHL hat trick occurred last season against Atlanta, when fans were given Islanders boxer shorts that quickly littered the ice after goal No. 3.
On Friday, Blake received the customary hats on the ice tribute.
“Everything just came so fast,” Blake said. “We wanted to make sure, win or lose, that we played as good as we could play.”
Blake’s hat trick, the first recorded by an Atlantic Division player this season, pushed the Islanders six points ahead of Buffalo in the race for the eighth playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Both teams have eight games remaining.
“Tampa Bay did us a favor (Thursday) night by beating Buffalo,” Islanders goalie Rick DiPietro said. “We still have eight games to go, and we need as many points as we can get.”
DiPietro made 15 saves for his 19th win this season, New York’s third in four games.
Blake gave the Islanders a 1-0 lead with 4:53 left in the first period while the teams were skating four-on-four. He eluded three checks as he carried the puck from his blue line to the Minnesota zone. He moved to the right circle and beat Roloson with a high wrist shot.
“I kind of had my head down, and their guy missed me,” Blake said. “I was going to pass across to Michael (Peca), but I saw the goalie cheated and I took a chance and shot it.”
New York coach Steve Stirling was impressed.
“He didn’t have much of a hole to shoot at,” Stirling said, “and he nailed it beautifully.”
DiPietro protected New York’s advantage by making a low glove save on Marian Gaborik’s wrist shot at 7:55 of the second period.
Blake made it 2-0 at 12:52 with a short-handed goal. He skated to the goal mouth and pushed the puck between Roloson’s legs.
“That was a great play by Scatch (Dave Scatchard),” Blake said. “He had a guy draped all over him, and he managed to get me the puck.”
Brunette cut the lead in half with his 15th goal at 3:02 of the third period. Brunette took a pass from Alexandre Daigle and beat DiPietro with a wrist shot.
Blake completed his hat trick with 0.4 seconds left when he scored an empty-net goal when a Minnesota player threw his stick at the puck while Blake was breaking in alone.
Despite the loss, Minnesota coach Jacques Lemaire was pleased with his team’s effort.
“It was a pretty good game,” Lemaire said. “We didn’t get a lot of shots(17), but we had a lot of good chances to score.”
Islanders forward Shawn Bates missed his fifth game due to a groin injury. … The Wild have never had a four-game winning streak in four NHL seasons. … The teams have only met six times, with each club winning three. … The Wild finished their season series against the Eastern Conference 11-4-2-1. … The Islanders were penalized three times for goaltenderinterference, once in each period.