The Islanders are quickly making themselves comfortable in some of the most uncomfortable of situations.
For the third time in their last sixth games — and for the second consecutive night — Lane Lambert’s men overturned a multi-goal third-period deficit to pull out two points; the latest coming on Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden in a 4-3 thriller over the crosstown-rival Rangers.
“I think our guys have a lot of heart and they believe,” Lambert said. “And they don’t quit.”
The Islanders entered the third period down 3-1 against the Blueshirts having been outshot 31-18 on the night and 17-6 in the second. This coming on the second leg of an emotional back-to-back in which they roared back from a 3-1 deficit in the third period on Monday night at UBS Arena to defeat the Calgary Flames in overtime.
“It was kind of the same scenario as [Monday] night,” Kyle Palmieri, who scored the Islanders’ opening goal on his way to a two-point night, said. “We were down two going into the third. It happened last night, so why not believe in it happening again?”
Adam Pelech scored 14 seconds into the third period to cut it to one before Brock Nelson tied it on the power play at the 13:46 mark of the frame. It set up Anders Lee’s winner with just 5:30 to go in regulation, sliding home an Alex Romanov pass from the point as he was alone in front of star Rangers goalie Igor Shesterkin.
“This team’s got it,” Lee said of the Islanders’ comeback capabilities. “We know what we’re capable of when we play the right way.”
Semyon Varlamov made 37 saves to keep the Islanders in it, especially on the penalty kill during a sloppy second period in which the Islanders began the frame with 1:56 of time down a man to kill before committing another three infractions.
“There’s a lot of belief in our group and in our room. We were confident,” Palmieri said. “We just got into some penalty trouble. That’s a team with a really good power play.
The Islanders improved to 9-5-0 on the season, leap-frogging past the Rangers to take over second place in the Metropolitan Division standings thanks to a stretch in which they’ve won six of their last seven.
It began with a win over the Rangers on Oct. 26 at UBS Arena, but the team’s suddenly-clear characteristic didn’t come into focus until three nights later when they scored four unanswered goals — three in the third period — to overturn a 3-0 deficit to defeat the defending Stanley Cup-champion Colorado Avalanche 5-4.
The Islanders have outscored their opponents 25-11 in the third period this season, re-instituting a brand of stifling hockey from the Barry Trotz era while coupling it with a more aggressive offensive attack that has yielded exceptional results come crunch time.
“Two-goal deficit going into the third, nothing to lose but an opportunity to have a great 20 minutes,” Lee said as he began to smirk. “We’ll take that sometimes. Not all the time.”