The Blues frustrated the Islanders’ attack deep into the third period Monday afternoon, keeping the pucks to the outside and limiting dangerous chances near their net. Their two-goal lead seemed safe and nearly double what it was.
Then the little things that go right when a team is working hard started to all go right for the Islanders. It ended in an improbable 3-2 overtime victory over the defending Stanley Cup champions at NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum.
“As Barry would say, the hockey gods were in our favor tonight,” said Mathew Barzal, whose dominant play with the puck in the closing minutes was a deciding factor.
He scored the tying goal from the right boards off a deflection with 26.5 seconds left and the Islanders skating six-on-five, then set up Devon Toews’ one-timer from behind the crease at 1:13 of overtime.
“We got a lucky bounce on my goal,” Barzal said. “That’s just crazy luck right there. You get a bounce and it kind of sparks the group. The last five minutes, we had great energy. It was a roller coaster of a game.”
The Islanders (3-3-0) have won two straight and put together three straight hard-working efforts, including Friday night’s 5-2 loss at Carolina and Saturday night’s 3-2 shootout win over the visiting Panthers.
Thomas Greiss made 21 saves for the Islanders. Blues goalie Jordan Binnington made 29 saves, including 18 in the third period after the Islanders were held to four shots in the second.
“We were confident in our game,” said Toews, who jumped on the ice and got to the left circle for Barzal’s feed on the winner. “If the results don’t come, they don’t come. As long as we’re playing our game and playing hard, we’re confident in our team. A team win is always the best win, and I think we deserved that one today.”
Still, it wasn’t until Brock Nelson jump-started the Islanders with a short-side goal at 14:29 of the third period that they really began to fight back.
“If he doesn’t score that, I don’t think we come back to win,” Barzal said.
Nelson, who said he had several other chances thwarted by the choppy ice, decided to take a swipe from the right boards and get a shot on net with the puck on its edge rather than trying to stop and set up a more controlled opportunity.
“Going into the third, we hadn’t played our best and we were still in a game,” said Nelson, who has three goals in six games. “We were able to stick with it, get one and feed off of that, and we created some momentum.”
Oliver Wahlstrom, the 11th overall pick in 2018, made his NHL debut for the Islanders with center Casey Cizikas and top-line right wing Jordan Eberle both out with lower-body injuries.
The Islanders allowed the first goal for the third straight game and fourth time overall as Brayden Schenn’s feed from the right boards deflected in off Anthony Beauvillier at 6:48 of the first period.
Vladimir Tarasenko’s power-play goal at 5:23 of the third period — after Derick Brassard needlessly hooked Oskar Sundqvist in the neutral zone — gave the Blues a 2-0 lead.
“It’s going to help with our confidence,” Trotz said of the comeback victory. “What I think it does is validate what you’ve been saying. Let your actions speak louder than words. I said to the guys in Carolina, ‘I’ll take the effort and the battle first and we’ll build our game off of that.’ I thought we did that the last couple of games, and we’re getting rewarded for it.”