Just when the NHL was expecting the Islanders to fall back down to earth, Barry Trotz’s men righted the ship just in time.
The Islanders have won four of their last five games with points in seven of their last eight following back-to-back 5-3 victories over Metropolitan Division opponents that are in touching distance on either side of them in the standings.
Monday night’s victory over the first-place Capitals ensured the Islanders’ deficit behind the division leaders wouldn’t grow.
Further incentive came in the form of withholding Capitals star Alexander Ovechkin from tallying goal Nos. 699 and 700 on national television.
While back-to-backs cause most NHL sides to struggle, the Islanders thrive under Trotz, as their Tuesday night win in Brooklyn over the Flyers improved their record in such instances this season to 6-1-1.
It didn’t come easy, as the Islanders blew a 3-0 lead, but Ryan Pulock provided the game-winner with 41 seconds left in regulation.
“Our group was determined,” Trotz said. “We just sort of thought it would be easy.. and we sort of let them back in the game.”
The two points were also vital in opening up some breathing space between them and the Flyers. Entering Tuesday night, Philadelphia was just one point behind the Islanders for the No. 3 spot in the Metropolitan Division.
As of Wednesday, the Islanders sit five points behind the Capitals for the Metropolitan Division lead and two points behind the Pittsburgh Penguins for the No. 2 spot.
“The biggest thing for me is no matter how the game is going, we’re staying to the process,” Trotz said. “Stuff is going to happen during the game. How we react off of it… there’s no panic on our bench. We’ve responded at the right time.”
New York rode an early discovery of offensive affluence to spark their two wins, scoring three goals in the first period each night. It was just the fifth time in franchise history that they scored that many goals in consecutive days.
It was also just the fourth time in the past 20 years that the Islanders scored five goals in consecutive days (2014, 2006, 2001).
Their suddenly explosive offense doesn’t necessarily mute the cries of acquiring another goal-scorer before the NHL’s Feb. 24 trade deadline, but it has featured key players stepping up at the right time.
The streaky Anthony Beauvillier went pointless for just the second time in his last 11 games on Tuesday against the Flyers. Before that, he accrued 13 points (7 G, 6 A) in his previous 10 games to equal his career-high seasonal output in points (36).
Jordan Eberle, who scored three goals in his first 31 games, has seven in his last 14.
Josh Bailey has 14 points in his last 13 games following an arid streak that saw him post one in his previous 12.
Those performances will have to carry into a difficult four-game Western Conference road trip that features stops against the Nashville Predators — who crunched the Islanders 8-3 at Nassau Coliseum in Decembers — Vegas Golden Knights, Arizona Coyotes, and Colorado Avalanche.
“We’ve got to have more success against the western teams,” Trotz said. “Just looking at our trip, Nashville beat us pretty handily in our own building… they’re a good hockey team. They have some good offensive power.”