It’s been far from easy in recent games, but the Islanders continue to pull points out when they need them most.
Entering Tuesday night toeing the playoff line after a difficult pre-All-Star-break stretch and a loss over the weekend to the Vancouver Canucks, two points were vital against the Dallas Stars.
They managed to squeak them out in a 4-3 overtime win, overturning a 3-2 third-period deficit.
The key to the Islanders’ success even in their difficult times has been the structure that has constantly been preached by head coach Barry Trotz.
While the Islanders don’t have the most talented roster on paper, they have one of the most organized. And they don’t get too high or too low, either.
“When I first got here, we talked about being consistent and being predictable and if you do that, it gives you that extra step, a comfort when the games are uncomfortable,” Trotz said. “What happens with some teams — and ours has done this sometimes as well — is that you change your game. I don’t know if it’s panic or you try to do so something, but you go outside your game and try to do too much.”
Tuesday night’s victory had all the makings of a frustrating affair. Despite four threatening power-play opportunities, the Islanders’ inconsistent man-advantage unit couldn’t break through Ben Bishop.
Monopolizing most of the open play didn’t amount to much, either, as the Stars managed to nab the lead 6:56 into the third through John Klingberg.
Trotz’s men didn’t lose faith even after an equalizer was disallowed for goalie interference. Mathew Barzal’s between-the-legs goal off a rebound from the boards knotted things back up with 3:59 left in the game.
“That’s a good character test,” Trotz said. “You get one pulled back and you’re fighting for every point now and you have to go get another one and we did.”
And it came on the power play, no less.
Anthony Beauvillier, who opened the night’s scoring just 1:30 into the game, ended it in overtime with a breakaway snipe.
“I like the fact that the bench is great,” Trotz said. “They believe that the game isn’t over until that final buzzer goes. We established that last year and it’s coming into play now.”
It wasn’t always like that, though. Before Trotz’s arrival, the Islanders were notorious for losing games late rather than finding ways to get back in it.
“When I first got here, everyone was a cat on a hot tin roof… Everybody was getting all excited,” Trotz said. “What you have to do is trust that you’ll get your job done and the guy next to you will get it done. We were able to establish that last year.”
They’ll need to stay the course with a brutal upcoming schedule.
Following a home game in Brooklyn against the Los Angeles Kings, the Islanders have a seven-game stretch against some of the stronger teams in the league including two road games in three nights against the Washington Capitals and Tampa Bay Lightning.
“Every point right now is so crucial. We have a couple of games in hand on some teams.,” Trotz said. “They don’t mean anything if you don’t win them. If you win them, you put a lot of pressure on the other teams.”