Mathew Barzal did more than earn the New York Islanders a 4-3 overtime win over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday night at UBS Arena; he also made NHL history.
According to statistician Eric Hornick, Barzal is the first player in league historty to twice register three assists in regulation and then score the game-winner in overtime - and Barzal did it in less than two months.
The Islanders' All-Star also accomplished the feat back on Nov. 30 when he scored in O.T. to give the Islanders a 5-4 win in Carolina. Ironically, both games were televised nationally on ESPN. Overall, Hornick points out that the three assists plus O.T. winner game has only happened 30 times in league history, and Barzal is the only Islander to accomplish it.
The history-making game-winner came just 21 seconds into the extra session when, after an icing, Bo Horvat won a face-off back to defenseman Noah Dobson. The 24-year-old, who had four assists on the night, made a beautiful pass to Barzal, who slid backdoor and was able to deflect the pass beyond Leafs goaltender Martin Jones.
"Great pass by Dobson," said Barzal. "I didn't get great wood on it so I was just waiting for it to trickle in and it finally did. It's a big win for us; we had two tough games the last two, so to get this win against a good team is a big one."
Thursday night was another four-point game for Barzal, the third time he's done that this season, tying Nikita Kucherov, Connor McDavid, and Mitch Marner for the NHL lead. On the season, Barzal is up to 12 goals and 33 assists for 45 points in 40 games.
The Islanders are proving they can score with any team, and Barzal is among the biggest reasons why. The 26-year-old has raised his game to the level of a franchise player, as the team envisioned when he signed an eight-year extension before last season.