Nothing has slowed the Islanders lately, certainly not an injury-necessitated makeshift lineup. If anything, they just continue to improve offensively.
“The course of last year, even the start of this year, we were having a little trouble scoring goals,” Mathew Barzal said. “The last seven or eight games, we’ve really made a point to bear down on our chances. But I think it’s just chemistry at the same time.”
The Islanders won their seventh straight game on Sunday night, recording a season-high goal total in a 5-3 victory over the Flyers before 12,055 at NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum. It’s their longest single-season winning streak since 1990.
Barzal and Anders Lee each had a goal and an assist as a season-high 11 Islanders got at least one point. The Islanders consistently beat the tired-looking Flyers to pucks.
“It’s clicking,” said Derick Brassard, a natural center who scored for the third straight game since being moved to Brock Nelson’s right wing along with Anthony Beauvillier. “I feel like we could’ve had three or four if we buried our chances. We’re missing a few guys, so we know we have to step up.”
The Islanders (8-3-0) have scored at least four goals in each of their last three games — in a four-night span — and at least three goals in each game of their winning streak.
Forwards Tom Kuhnhackl and Matt Martin each will be out four to six weeks with left leg injuries suffered in Friday night’s 4-2 win at Ottawa. Top-line right wing Jordan Eberle (injured reserve, lower body) missed his sixth game and forward Leo Komarov has missed four games because of illness.
As a result, coach Barry Trotz has constructed two scoring lines — the Nelson line and Barzal centering Lee and right wing Josh Bailey — and two checking lines. Burly Ross Johnston made it 3-1 at the crease with his first goal of the season at 11:46 of the first period and also fought Chris Stewart at 14:23 of the period.
“It’s nice when you can contribute,” said Johnston, who was on Cole Bardreau’s left wing along with rookie Oliver Wahlstrom.
Michael Dal Colle took Martin’s spot on Casey Cizikas’ line with Cal Clutterbuck.
“There’s a part of the game offensively where you can be in better position and have better opportunity to read and make plays,” Trotz said. “I think we’re taking ownership of that part.”
Lee tied the score at 1 at 3:17 of the first and Brassard finished an odd-man rush with Nelson at 4:22. Defenseman Ryan Pulock (with a point shot at 4:13) and Barzal (on a breakaway at 5:38) increased the Islanders’ lead to 5-2 in the second period.
Semyon Varlamov (28 saves) won his fourth straight start. Carter Hart was chased after allowing five goals on 14 shots for the Flyers, who had their winning streak snapped at three games.
Bardreau, 26, notched his first NHL point in his fourth game with an assist on Johnston’s goal.
“I didn’t do myself any favors with all my injuries,” said Bardreau, who spent the past five seasons in the Flyers’ organization without a call-up. “At the end of the day, you still kind of have a chip on your shoulder. You feel you deserve something.”