Some of the Islanders' inconsistencies this season have reminded observers of the struggles this team has had during a large portion of the previous six seasons. Blown leads, losses to struggling teams -- these are hallmarks of Isles teams dating to 2008.
On Saturday night, against a very good Bruins team, the Isles recalled highlights from last season. That was when they put some of those ghosts to bed with full-game energy, good goaltending and dominating shifts by top players.
The Islanders' 3-1 win over the Bruins at Nassau Coliseum gave them their first two-game winning streak of the season. After a wild shootout win in Ottawa the night before, the Isles didn't want to repeat the cha-cha-cha of winning one and losing one as they have through the first month.
"It's the first couple games all year that we played the way we wanted to play," said John Tavares, who opened the scoring in the second period. His newest linemate, Thomas Vanek, scored his first as an Islander to make it 3-1 later in a second period controlled by the Islanders' top line.
"That was really like it was at times last year," Tavares said. "I liked the way we came out and the way we played against a good hockey team."
Kevin Poulin got the call in net and stopped 26 of 27 shots in picking up his first win of the season. Faced with a big Bruins team that crashes creases, Poulin was aggressive from the outset, stopping David Krejci on a semi-break in a scoreless first and looking sharp all game.
He had some help from his beleaguered defense, which tied up Bruins sticks and did their best to keep traffic to a minimum. Both Matt Donovan and Andrew MacDonald stopped sure goals with good positioning. With Poulin out of position in the third, MacDonald denied Milan Lucic the puck to preserve the two-goal lead.
"He knew he had to be good against that team tonight and he stepped up," coach Jack Capuano said of Poulin, who may have earned himself another start on Tuesday night in Washington.
Tavares' goal, a midair swat past Bruins goaltender Chad Johnson at 6:15 of the second, got the Isles going. Tavares won an offensive-zone faceoff that led to MacDonald's first of the season at 13:13 for a 2-0 lead.
The Bruins cut the deficit in half on a power play at 15:27, but just 41 seconds later, Kyle Okposo got away on a two-on-one and zipped a pass across to Vanek, who one-timed a shot past Johnson.
"It feels great," Vanek said. "I've obviously had a few chances in the couple games already and I was really pressing for the one [on a breakaway] in OT in Ottawa. We've just got to keep building."
The Islanders are only 3-3-3 at the Coliseum and now embark on a four-game road trip, with the first three stops at division foes (Washington, Carolina and Columbus). Success this coming week means the Isles can create some separation.
"It's something I wish would have happened earlier this year," Travis Hamonic said of the burst of consistency, "but maybe we can gain some confidence with the way we played this one and especially the way we finished."