Islanders win fifth straight as Cal Clutterbuck scores twice, Robin Lehner earns third shutout
The third-period chants by the sellout crowd of 13,917 at NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum on Sunday afternoon neatly summed up the current state of the Islanders.
“First-place Islanders!” “Robin Lehner!” and “Barry Trotz!” chants alternated as the Islanders wrapped up a 3-0 win over the Anaheim Ducks. Fourth-line right wing Cal Clutterbuck scored twice in the first period as the Isles extended their Metropolitan Division lead to three points over the Capitals and Blue Jackets.
The Islanders, who have won five straight and 15 of 18, notched back-to-back shutouts for the first time this season. They showed no loss of focus after an emotional 2-0 win over the Capitals on Friday night in Trotz’s first return to Washington since leading the Caps to the Stanley Cup last June.
“This is a very special building,” said goalie Robin Lehner, who followed Thomas Greiss’ 19-save performance by making 19 mostly stress-free saves for his third shutout and winning for the 11th time in 12 decisions. “You definitely hear it. It makes you happy to play and gives you some confidence.
“The first-place chant? I don’t know about that. We haven’t done anything yet. We’re just fighting for the playoffs.”
The Islanders (29-15-4), who have not made the playoffs since 2016, will conclude a grueling stretch of nine games in 15 days on Tuesday night in Chicago before entering the All-Star break and then their bye week.
“This is a special group of guys,” said Clutterbuck, who has three goals in two games and four in five games. “I think people are seeing a little bit of what we’re capable of.”
His reaction to the “first- place” chants mirrored Lehner’s, though.
“It’s nice, but it’s still January,” Clutterbuck said. “It’s just an affirmation of the style we have. The structure is a winning structure.”
The Islanders have allowed three goals in their five-game winning streak and have held their last three opponents to fewer than 20 shots. Their 119 goals against are the fewest in the NHL. They allowed a league-high 293 last season, the most in the NHL since 2007.
“It’s not really fun playing track-meet games,” defenseman Johnny Boychuk said. “It doesn’t help you win and it doesn’t move you up in the standings. If we don’t [play defensively sound], we’re going to end up out of the playoffs. I think we realize that.”
Judging by the crowd’s chants, Trotz is receiving the bulk of the credit for the Islanders’ defensive turnaround, but he was quick to credit the rest of his coaching staff and the players for the team’s success.
“We’re all Islanders,” Trotz said. “Trust me, it’s us. I’m the beautiful face you have to look at each day and talk to. But you can see the passion at this rink, the passion on the Island.”
Clutterbuck opened the scoring with a power-play goal from the slot at 4:50 of the first period and made it 2-0 from nearly the same spot at 9:56. Leo Komarov’s deflection of defenseman Devon Toews’ point shot made it 3-0 with 28.1 seconds to go in the second period.
Former Islander Chad Johnson made 25 saves for the Ducks (21-20-9).
Notes & quotes: The Islanders, who have a shutout streak of 132:53, have three winning streaks of at least five games for the third time in team history and the first time since 1982-83 . . . The Isles are 5-1-1 at the Coliseum, which had its fourth sellout . . . Lehner has allowed one or fewer goals in eight of his last 12 appearances . . . This was Clutterbuck’s sixth two-goal game in 11 seasons. He does not have a hat trick.
This is the third time in the 47-season history of the franchise that the Islanders have put together three win streaks of five games or longer in the same season:
1978-79: 5, 7, 5
1982-83: 6, 15, 5
2018-19: 5 (Oct. 27-Nov. 3), 6 (Dec. 23-Jan. 5), 5 (Jan. 13-20)