Islanders hope epic comeback win will have carryover effect
Mathew Barzal fed Brock Nelson for the goal in sudden death that gave the Islanders their comeback win for the ages. Now they’re hoping the 7-6 thrill ride against Detroit Friday night at Barclays Center breathes sudden life into their chase for a playoff ticket.
“Oh, yeah,” Barzal said after the team gathered for a video session, meetings and an optional practice Saturday at Northwell Health Ice Center in preparation for Sunday night’s game against Calgary in Brooklyn. “When you’re going through some tough times, you look for something like that.
“That’s a huge comeback and just a huge two points, going from getting zero points in two games against Buffalo and Detroit to squeaking out a win.”
The Isles had been 1-3-1 in their previous five, 3-5-2 in their previous 10 and 11-16-4 in their previous 31 dating to the opening faceoff of December. Then they were down 5-2 against the Red Wings. But Tyler Bertuzzi took a five-minute slashing penalty with 6:33 left in the third, leading to four power-play goals in a span of 3:37, beginning with 5:26 on the clock.
After the Islanders blew the lead with 29 seconds remaining in regulation, Barzal created an overtime turnover. The subsequent two-and-one led to Nelson completing his second career hat trick and the Islanders taking ownership of the East’s second wild-card spot heading into Saturday’s play.
It marked just the third comeback win in the final 5:26 from at least a three-goal deficit in NHL history.
“That was a crazy game,” said Barzal, who had five assists, including three on that one power play. “ . . . Probably the coolest game I’ve been a part of. Yeah, it was a really fun game.”
The home team, though, put six more goals on its league-worst goals-against pile. So Andrew Ladd delivered a reality check.
“You obviously build on the feeling you have coming off the big win and the excitement that comes with coming to the rink the next day,” Ladd said. “On the flip side of that, we’re giving up too much in our own end. We don’t want the last six minutes of that game to cover up a lot of the deficiencies that we’ve had in the last, I would say, month or so.”
They trailed 3-0 against Detroit and the night before in Buffalo.
“So we can’t overlook that,” Nelson said. “We need to come out and play a little bit better right from the get-go and tighten things up a little defensively and know that the offense is there.”
It’s certainly there with their second-line center and power-play threat. Barzal continues to make a case for the Calder Trophy. The 20-year-old sensation leads all NHL rookies in points with 58 in 56 games and assists with 42.
But he passed the credit for these last five assists, saying, “We have lethal scorers on this team.”
Barzal became the first rookie in NHL history and first Islander with two five-assist games in a season as well as the second rookie to have three games in a season with at least five points. The first one, Joe Malone, did it for Montreal. It happened in 1917-18, the league’s inaugural season.
“I kind of saw that after the game,” Barzal said. “Any stat that’s gone a hundred years is pretty cool.”