Coach Jack Capuano had identified the weakness. He stressed it over and over. The players readily recognized the need to do better. The scoresheet vehemently agreed.
Going into Wednesday night's game against the Flyers, the Islanders had allowed eight power-play goals in 22 tries, so when the penalty kill bit them only four minutes in, it looked like so much more of the same. But that's the thing with stressing a subject over and over (and over) -- sometimes, it clicks.
The Islanders overcame their early deficit on the back of a shorthanded equalizer by Casey Cizikas to help defeat the Flyers, 3-1, at Barclays Center. Kyle Okposo scored the go-ahead goal in the second period as the Isles improved to 11-8-3.
"It was better," Capuano said of the penalty kill. "We did some good things; we still struggled . . . [but that goal] gave us a little bit of a lift."
It was sorely needed, especially after allowing three power-play goals to the Canadiens on Sunday. Wednesday night, Claude Giroux gathered Shayne Gostisbehere's no-look, backhand touch pass and fired to the top shelf for a man-up goal at 3:59 of the first period.
But after a number of near-misses, the Isles regrouped. Nick Leddy was assessed a boarding penalty at 18:50 to unintentionally set the stage for Cal Clutterbuck and Cizikas. With typical aggressiveness, Clutterbuck crashed the net and dished a backhand pass across the front to Cizikas, who tied it with 58 seconds left in the period. It was their third shorthanded goal of the year.
"Clutter made an unbelievable play," Cizikas said. "I don't know what he did on the wall there to get around that D but he kind of froze him and took it to the net. It just kind of happened to go on my stick."
That seemed to effectively snap the Islanders back into the game, and into a fighting frame of mind. Play turned chippy, with each team assessed two majors for fighting, plus an unsportsmanlike conduct call on Matt Martin for taking off his helmet while grappling with Wayne Simmonds in the second.
"That's what we needed," said Cizikas, "a good, hard physical game like that . . . They're fun. When they get testy like that, when they get physical like that."
With the score tied, John Tavares won a faceoff and fed Okposo, who muscled his way in front of the net and squeaked one past Steve Mason (33 saves) for the 2-1 adlead. Frans Nielsen added an empty netter at 18:51.
Jaroslav Halak (17 saves) made back-to-back shorthanded saves midway through the second to maintain the lead and the Islanders held the Flyers to only four shots in the third period.
"It was one of our better games defensively," Capuano said. "[We need]] guys who step their game up and play with a little desperation and desire . . . and I think overall tonight we did that."