Islanders head coach Barry Trotz wasn’t too concerned with how his team was going to respond on Wednesday night against the Vancouver Canucks.
They were forced to stew on one of their worst losses in the Trotz era, looking listless and lifeless in a 3-0 loss to the Seattle Kraken last Thursday in which the head coach admitted it was “one of the most disappointing losses” of his Islanders tenure.
Wednesday night in Vancouver provided the first opportunity to get that sour taste out of their mouths and they did so with flying colors — scoring five goals in the first period on their way to a 6-3 victory.
Granted, a spirited effort was never in doubt, at least according to Trotz.
“I was more curious how the lines would work,” Trotz said. “I thought the response — I’ve been around these guys for a long time — we had the right demeanor the last few days. Before the game, I had a pretty good feeling that we were going to be okay.”
Even if he liked what he saw, Trotz went the extra mile by drastically shuffling his lines. Fourth-liner Cal Clutterbuck was on the first line, second-liner Anthony Beauvillier went down to the fourth unit. In Beauvillier’s spot was Ross Johnston, dressed in the absence of Kyle Palmieri to provide a little more muscle.
“It hasn’t been working for us,” Trotz said when discussing his lineup decisions. “We haven’t had consistent production throughout our lineup so it was to put some people in a position where they can add a little more weight on all the lines. Just balance them out and go with a little more four-line mentality.
“[The fourth] line has an identity, why can’t we have that through our whole team? One of the ideas was let’s spread it out, put some people in a position and understand that there’s some certain battle level and some weight on each line and hopefully have some success.”
The formula worked as the Islanders scored three goals in 31 seconds early in the game — the second-quickest span to post three goals in franchise history. It was also the first time since 1996 that the Islanders posted five goals in the first period of a game.
All fine and dandy, but the Islanders need to start stringing together wins — regardless of how many goals scored — if they want to mount a serious run at playoff contention. Time is already running out with New York 15 points out of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
“This game, what we did is done,” Trotz said, as he began looking forward to Friday night’s matchup with Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers.
“I don’t know how the Edmonton game is going to play out. We were fortunate that we jumped on [Vancouver] real quick and we were able to capitalize,” Trotz said. “That may not be the case. You can’t expect to score five goals every game… Every game has its own map, its set of circumstances.
“We have to be flexible and resilient enough to roll with the punches when they come at us, take advantage of situations, and be consistent. That’s probably the message. You have to get comfortable when the games are tight.”