EDMONTON, Alberta — Josh Ho-Sang was all smiles after his first NHL goal, wearing the vintage, 1990s leather jacket adorned with the Islanders logo that goes to the team’s first star after a win.
“Awesome,” he said. “Even better that we won.”
The Islanders continued a remarkable pattern with Tuesday’s convincing 4-1 win over the playoff-bound Oilers here. The Isles are now 9-0-2 after their last 11 regulation losses dating to mid-December, an ability to erase ugly defeats such as Sunday’s 5-2 win that has them still holding on to the final wild-card berth in the East, a point ahead of the Maple Leafs.
“We’ve been really good coming back after a game when we haven’t played our best,” said Andrew Ladd, who scored a key goal at 7:04 of the third to extend the Isles’ lead to 3-1. “We got back to what we do best, grinding teams down, working hard.”
That’s no small feat against Connor McDavid and the Oilers, whose speed up front is unmatched around the league. McDavid did plenty of swooping and threatening, but Thomas Greiss turned aside 27 shots and the Islanders were strong on pucks in all three zones to keep the speed rushes to a minimum.
“We were really, really good in the neutral zone,” Doug Weight said. “We really tried to bottle them up and I thought everyone was good tonight. I didn’t have too much angst about playing anyone late.”
And in the first period, it was Ho-Sang with a surprising, one-time slapper from the point on the power play to beat Cam Talbot and open the scoring at 17:23.
“It’s pretty cool to score in the NHL,” Ho-Sang said. “I can tell you I didn’t think it would be a one-timer from the point. But after you don’t score in your first couple games, you’ll take one any way you can — off your face, a tip-in, whatever.”
Zack Kassian tied the game on a deflection at 2:58 of the second but the Islanders did their dirty work to earn the lead back, with Anders Lee posting up in front of Talbot to sweep home a rebound of Josh Bailey’s shot at 9:45 of the second.
From there, the Islanders were the stronger club by a fair distance. They cycled, they forced half a dozen Oilers icings over the last few minutes of the second, they killed off a Thomas Hickey minor early in the third and pounced soon after with Brock Nelson feeding Ladd for the back-breaker in the third.
And the Islanders played the majority of the game without Shane Prince, who left in the second period with a leg injury that likely will keep him out a while.
“Every line played well, every line had some good zone time and some strong shifts,” said Lee, who hit the empty net with 59.3 seconds to go to give him a team-high 25 goals on the season, tying his career best. “It was big to get the lead back in the second, especially on the road.”
The Islanders have guaranteed themselves at least a .500 points percentage on this franchise-long nine-game trip, now at 4-2-1 heading to Vancouver. With the Leafs and Flyers winning Tuesday before the Islanders were done with the first period, the pressure to not allow any sort of losing streak only increased.
And the Islanders responded with yet another 60-minute effort, much like the ones in Detroit and Montreal to kick off this trip.
“That’s something Doug always preaches — it’s not about last night or last game, it’s always about the next day,” Ho-Sang said. “We can’t afford to dwell on what happened last game. It just brings a bad vibe into the room.”