If it’s not a routine by now for the Islanders — their ability to pile up goals early and keep opponents down for the count in the third period — it’s becoming the norm.
Those are both excellent developments for an Islander team that got going in the first period against the Canucks at Barclays Center on Tuesday and closed the door on any comeback in a 5-2 win, the Isles’ fourth straight.
This is two straight games allowing two or fewer goals, the first time that’s happened this season. And it was accomplished with a forceful third in which Vancouver was down two goals but barely made a push thanks to improved team defensive-zone play and one key save among 23 total for Jaroslav Halak, who was strong when needed in his second straight start and win.
“I think the first 20-25 games, every team is trying to find their game a little bit,” Halak said. “Giving up three goals a night is not good, but I think our offense showed it could score goals and win games even when we gave up too many. We tightened up a little bit in our zone the last two games and it’s been good.”
Andrew Ladd scored on a shorthanded breakaway and former Islander Thomas Vanek answered on the same Canucks power play 1:02 later to even things in the first. But in a late flurry, the Isles seized control of the game with two goals in 60 seconds.
Calvin de Haan’s first of the year was a low slapper that changed directions off Canucks rookie Brock Boeser’s stick and past Anders Nilsson, another former Islander who came in with a .934 save percentage.
A minute later, Mathew Barzal extended his point streak to seven games when he waited out two defenders and fed the puck to Jordan Eberle flying into the Vancouver zone off the bench. Eberle snapped one past Nilsson and the Isles had a 3-1 lead after one.
“You obviously want to start well,” said Eberle, who scored his 10th in the last 14 games after a goose egg through his first 10 games as an Islander. “We put three up early and it’s tough to come back.”
Anders Lee’s 13th extended the lead in the second, but Bo Horvat’s shorthanded goal cut the Isles lead back to two and marked the eighth shorthanded goal allowed this season by the Islanders.
But in the third, the pressure was in Vancouver’s end most of the time. The one bad breakdown, with about 12 minutes to go, led to Michael Del Zotto’s one-timer from the high slot that Halak snared.
“That’s a 4-3 shot with plenty of time left,” Doug Weight said. “I thought we were mindful of the score (in the third), we exited our zone well. We’ve got a lot of guys who are feeling good about scoring and getting points, but I thought we played a real unselfish game tonight.”
Lee set up John Tavares for the clincher with 6:25 to go, giving the Isles a gaudy 8-0-2 record at Barclays Center and 11-0-0 record when leading after two periods.
“You definitely wait for the push back because every team in the league seems to have one,” Eberle said. “But you have to learn to keep teams down. We got out to the lead and kind of lulled them to sleep. It’s always good when you’re on the right of that.”
Notes & Quotes: Anthony Beauvillier played for Casey Cizikas (lower body), who is day-to-day, according to Weight. Ryan Pulock and Dennis Seidenberg were the healthy scratches for the Islanders . . . Former Islander (1992-98) Travis Green coached his first game against the organization that drafted him. “It’s nice to come back,” he said prior to the game. “The Islanders are always dear to my heart. Other than that, it’s just another game.”