A win was a start. A winning streak now is necessary for the Islanders to climb back into the playoff chase.
The Islanders, who traveled back from Calgary on Monday after snapping an 0-4-4 slide with Sunday’s 5-2 win over the Flames, must wait until Thursday night’s start of a home-and-home series with the Capitals at Barclays Center to build upon their first victory since Feb. 16.
But even if the just-completed 1-0-3 road trip ultimately was disappointing, a couple of areas of the team’s play can be considered promising as the Islanders play six of their next seven games at home.
Most important is 25-year-old Finnish goalie Christopher Gibson, who made 50 saves against the Flames and stopped 37 of 38 shots in the final two periods. That followed his 35-save performance in Thursday’s 2-1 shootout loss at Edmonton. Gibson also started the trip-opening 3-2 overtime loss at Pittsburgh on March 3 by making 47 saves.
“Gibby, ever since he’s been in the organization, he’s been a great goaltender and tough to score on,” Anders Lee said. “So we always know the potential that these guys have. But when you come into the game and play as calm as he has, it’s a wonderful surprise.”
Gibson, who has played seven games for the Islanders — and in the NHL — since being acquired from the Maple Leafs on Sept. 17, 2015, as part of a package for Michael Grabner, is 1-0-2 with a 1.91 goals-against average and a .957 save percentage this season.
“He’s obviously coming off a year where he was injured,” Islanders coach Doug Weight said of Gibson, who played only seven games in 2016-17. “The way he’s playing, it’s a great thing for us. We have to play a little better in front of him. But it’s a big win.”
Gibson became the second Islanders rookie goalie to make at least 50 saves in a game, joining Hall of Famer Billy Smith, who made 55 saves against the Flyers on Nov. 22, 1972.
“He’s been playing really well,” defenseman Johnny Boychuk said. “When he’s been in net, he’s been stopping a lot of pucks. Even the one in Edmonton went off a stick and off his head and in.”
That was Connor McDavid’s equalizer at 18:10 of the third period.
Gibson likely also would like to have back Johnny Gaudreau’s shot from below the left faceoff circle that beat him over his right shoulder inside the near post to cut the Islanders’ lead over the Flames to 2-1 at 7:23 of the first period Sunday. Otherwise, he was essentially flawless.
Another good sign for the Islanders was the way they built their early two-goal lead over the Flames with goals 18 seconds apart from Boychuk and defense partner Nick Leddy.
The Islanders need their defensemen up on the attack more. They have been getting that lately, with Thomas Hickey getting the lone goal at Calgary.