ELMONT — When the floodgates finally broke, the Islanders’ goals came in bunches.
Anders Lee scored twice in the final 20 minutes that featured four goals, finding the back of the net in New York stretches that were accented by two goals in a 2:28 span and a 1:40 span, in a 4-1 victory over the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday afternoon at UBS Arena.
“We had plenty of good looks, held them well had some good kills, we just didn’t get them to go [early],” Lee said. “So we stuck with it and knew we were going to get our opportunities.”
With it, he moved into sole possession of ninth place ahead of franchise legend Bobby Nystrom for career goals in team history (236).
“It’s pretty special,” Lee said. “He’s a legend around here. The career he had, the leader he was, what he’s done in the community while he played and since then, that’s pretty cool.”
Lee followed up Zach Parise’s game-tying tally within 2:28 of each other in the opening five minutes of the third as the Islanders (32-25-8, 72 points) hopped over the Pittsburgh Penguins by one point to temporarily regain the No. 1 Eastern Conference Wild Card spot. Pittsburgh plays the Florida Panthers at 6 p.m. ET on Sunday.
Kyle Palmieri redirected a Noah Dobson slapper to put the Islanders up 3-1 with 4:19 to go in regulation before Lee lasered a wrister home to cap off the big period — which properly reflected a day in which New York outshot the Red Wings 36-23 in Pierre Engvall’s debut.
“I thought we pushed forward right from the beginning,” head coach Lane Lambert said. “Give our guys credit, they stuck with it and we broke through.”
Ilya Sorokin, who was playing for the first time ever in front of his father live in the NHL, made 22 saves to pick up his 60th career victory.
The Islanders controlled play for the majority of the afternoon, yet they found themselves trailing heading into the third period despite outshooting Detroit 25-13 during the opening 40 minutes.
Dylan Larkin stuffed home a power-play opportunity with 1:01 to go in the second to burn Bo Horvat for committing his second infraction of the frame — a high stick.
Just second earlier on a golden short-handed chance, Casey Cizikas laid a drop pass back for an on-rushing Josh Bailey, who cut in between the dots and had Red Wings goalie Magnus Hellberg beat while listing to his right post. Yet Bailey missed the net, sparking the Detroit rush the other way that led to Larkin’s opener.
“I liked how we were playing,” Parise said. “It wasn’t as if we didn’t feel good abotu coming into the third. We just wanted to continue to do what we’re doing.”
Parise drew the Islanders level 2:11 into the third period to get them back on track, finishing a rebound left by Hellberg in the right circle that originated from a Palmieri wrister on the opposite side of the ice for his 16th of the season
Just 2:28 later, Lee put the Islanders ahead with a lunging redirection off a Hudson Fasching wrister that snuck under the glove of Hellberg.