And the Islanders continue to show, more and more, that they are a good team and a solid playoff contender.
“We definitely weren’t at our best,” right wing Jordan Eberle said after the Isles’ 4-3 victory over the Blues on Saturday night at Enterprise Center. “We found a way to win. Good teams do that. They find ways to win when they’re not playing well.”
It wasn’t just that the Islanders weren’t at their best. For two periods, they didn’t play anything close to the hard-working, detail-oriented game that has suited them this season.
Despite managing only 14 shots on Jake Allen, the Islanders shrugged off a two-goal first-period deficit and rallied for three third-period goals — including two in 11 seconds — to extend their winning streak to a season-high six games.
“Tonight was a great example of us coming together,” said captain Anders Lee, who put back his own rebound to make it 4-2 at 15:04 of the third period. “We all agreed we weren’t very good the first 40 minutes. Everyone pulled on the same rope the last 20 minutes. We played the right way and, thankfully, with [Robin] Lehner, we only needed 20.
“We can’t make this a habit. We can’t rely on having an off two periods and have Lehner or [Thomas] Greiss back us up.”
Lehner made 29 saves in winning his seventh straight decision.
The Islanders (23-13-4), who have won nine of 10, are on their longest winning streak since the end of 2016-17. The win vaulted them into the first wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. They also moved to within two points of the first-place Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins. The Columbus Blue Jackets are in third with 51 points.
The Islanders have not had seven straight victories since they won their last three games in 2013-14 and their first four games of the next season. They haven’t won seven straight in a single season since a nine-game winning streak from Dec. 31, 1989 to Jan. 19, 1990.
They face the Hurricanes on Tuesday night at NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum, and coach Barry Trotz already is worried.
“This is a little bit of a red flag that you win a game you’re not supposed to because you think it’s going to happen easy,” Trotz said. “Hopefully it’s a little bit of a wake-up call. At the end of the year, the hockey gods always even things out. They’ll probably take one away at some point because I felt we stole this one a little bit.”
Eberle, in the lineup after missing four games with an upper-body issue, tied the score at 2 at 8:27 of the third period as he skated toward the left post. Off the ensuing faceoff, defenseman Johnny Boychuk connected from the right point at 8:38.
The Blues (16-19-4) thought they had tied the score at 11:22 of the third period, but Vladimir Tarasenko’s apparent power-play goal was waved off upon video review because of his kicking motion.
With Allen off for an extra skater and the Blues skating six-on-five, Ryan O’Reilly made it 4-3 at 18:27.
Brayden Schenn collected a loose puck off the right post to give the Blues a 1-0 lead at 4:11 of the first period and Zach Sanford tipped Vince Dunn’s shot to make it 2-0 at 16:37.
But Matt Martin, now halfway to matching his career high of 10 goals, brought the Islanders within 2-1 at 2:25. He parked low in the slot and took Casey Cizikas’ feed from behind the net.
“Marty’s goal was huge,” Trotz said. “If they get the third goal, it might have been a six-, seven-goal game the way we were playing.”