Thomas Greiss has made a habit of beating the Hurricanes, and the Islanders have done the same with Metropolitan Division opponents.
“We know the importance,” right wing Josh Bailey said. “When it comes to playoff seeding, it’s crucial. I think going into any game, you’ve got to get fired up and have that preparation. There’s probably a little extra going into divisional games.”
With an efficient effort — 19 shots against goalie Scott Darling — the Islanders beat Carolina, 4-1, on Saturday night at Barclays Center for their third victory over the Hurricanes this season.
Bailey had a goal and an assist and Anders Lee and Brock Nelson each had two assists for the Islanders (12-8-2), who improved to 9-1-0 within the division.
Greiss made 26 saves as the Hurricanes (11-9-3) were mostly kept away from the crease. He is 8-3-1 against them, including a 45-save shutout at the end of last season.
“We just played a good team game,” Greiss said. “We didn’t give them too many chances. We scored early and took the momentum away.”
The Islanders opened this season with a 2-1 overtime road win over the Hurricanes as Greiss made 45 saves. He made 38 saves as the Islanders won at Carolina, 2-1, on Oct. 28.
That was part of a season-opening stretch that featured seven straight divisional wins as the Isles became only the 11th NHL team to accomplish that.
The Islanders also beat the Devils, 4-3, in overtime on Friday afternoon as Greiss made 39 saves. It marked Greiss’ first starts in back-to-back games this season. No doubt he’ll be in net on Monday night when the Islanders host the defending Stanley Cup champion Capitals.
“We needed momentum,” Islanders coach Barry Trotz said of his decision to start Greiss on back-to-back days. “This is a team that we’re catching. I felt that Greisser deserved the start today.”
Trotz had likened facing the Hurricanes to a “playoff game” because of the tight standings earlier in the day.
“It’s going to be a long grind here,” defenseman Thomas Hickey said. “I think teams will separate themselves between now and late January and we’ll see where we’re at then.”
The real trick for the Islanders will be to figure out how to play as consistently against the rest of the NHL.
The Islanders took a 2-0 lead in the first period on their first two shots, including Valtteri Filppula’s highlight-reel goal to make it 1-0 at 3:39.
The third-line center collected the puck at his own blue line and stickhandled all the way to the Hurricanes’ crease, where he buried a backhander for his sixth goal this season on 19 shots. Four of the five Hurricanes’ defenders had a chance to separate him from the puck.
“First I wanted to get to the red [line] and then I noticed I had a little more space, so I cut in to the middle,” Filppula said. “I noticed I had a little more space again. That’s how it went. It wasn’t really a plan.”
Anthony Beauvillier got to the crease to take Bailey’s feed for a 2-0 lead at 9:01. It was his fifth goal in five games.
Bailey made it 3-0 at 13:17 of the second period. Defenseman Adam Pelech, on a rush with Lee, pushed it to 4-0 at 8:52 of the third period before Justin Williams’ power-play goal at 13:23 spoiled Greiss’ shutout bid.