In their first outing since general manager Lou Lamoriello gave the team a vote of confidence by standing pat at the trade deadline, the New York Islanders didn’t do much to instill much confidence with such a belief.
But they managed to do enough.
Scott Mayfield’s first goal since Jan. 21 with 10:11 to go in regulation proved to be the game-winner in an Islanders 3-0 victory over the lowly Ottawa Senators, who sit in seventh place in the eight-team Atlantic Division. It was the highlight of Mayfield’s two-point night — the third time this season that he’s had a multi-point game. And they all have come against the Senators.
Anders Lee stayed red-hot with an insurance marker with 2:35 remaining when he roofed a rebound for his 24th goal of the season and his 10th tally over his last nine games before Zach Parise — one day removed from finalizing a one-year extension with the team — added an empty-netter with 46 seconds to go.
After tying a franchise record last season with seven shutouts, Semyon Varlamov posted his first donut of the season, turning away all 24 Senators shots.
“He looks comfortable and he’s moving well,” head coach Barry Trotz said. “I’m glad for him.”
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It’s the Islanders’ seventh win in their last 10 games as they continue to suggest that under stable circumstances, they can at least be a playoff contender next season — though a concept like that is not ascertainable by just one game, especially one as dreary and overwhelmingly lifeless as Tuesday night’s affair amidst a jam-packed schedule.
“We’re just taking it day by day. We’re every other night at this point,” Lee said. “The schedule is condensed and we just have to regroup, find our legs, and get ready for the next one. Any time you can string a couple together, you can build some momentum on it. We’ll do that again.”
Kyle Palmieri hit the right post in the first period during an Islanders power play, which proved to be their closest scoring chance of the night before Mayfield’s breakthrough.
Bizarre officiating gifted the Senators their best chance of the night moments later in the first. After Adam Pelech flatted Mathieu Joseph with a legal, open-ice check, members of the Senators jumped in to confront Pelech in a scrum by the Senators’ blue line. The officials, however, did not blow the play dead, allowing Chris Tierney a free breakaway at Varlamov, which the Islanders netminder was able to turn away.
An uneventful second period saw the two teams combine for just 12 shots before the game’s deciding frame.
“There’s some games where you just have to play the right way,” Trotz said. “You just sometimes have to play the cards that are dealt. They were jamming it up… We just had to play through that.
“In the third, we just upped our game.”
A loose puck on the right side of Anton Forsberg’s net was pounced on by a pinching Mayfield, who picked the perfect time to exert some offensive aggression. With a quick flick, the puck found top netting and the Islanders were ahead for good.
On all three Islanders goals, Brock Nelson provided assists, making it just the second time in his career that he posted a night of three or more helpers — the only other instance coming on Feb. 10, 2020 in Washington against the Capitals.
“We’re just trying to get everything back to where everybody is feeling comfortable and we realize who we are and recognize where we are,” Trotz said.