GLENDALE, Ariz. — The Islanders avoided any potential obstacles on Tuesday night with another impressive team performance.
They showed no ill effects of playing on back-to-back nights. Goalie Robin Lehner, who’s lost playing time to injuries and Thomas Greiss’ better play of late, allowed a soft early goal and then was stout the rest of the way. And top-line center Brock Nelson went from being a game-time decision because of an apparent thigh issue to one of the Islanders’ better players in a 3-1 win over the Coyotes at Gila River Arena.
The Islanders (17-12-4), who have won the first two games of this four-game trip, have won three straight for the first time since a season-high five-game winning streak from Oct. 27-Nov. 3. They won for just the fourth time in 17 tries at Arizona.
Defenseman Ryan Pulock had two assists and Lehner finished with 36 saves. Darcy Kuemper stopped 29 shots for the Coyotes (14-17-2), who lost for the sixth time in their last seven games.
The trip takes a tougher turn on Thursday night at Vegas against last season’s Western Conference champions as an expansion team.
Lehner’s previous victory was on Oct. 30, when he exited after two periods with back spasms in a 6-3 win at Pittsburgh. The Islanders scored just a combined 10 goals in his next seven appearances before Tuesday.
“We haven’t given him much run support and I think that’s probably playing on him a little bit mentally,” Islanders coach Barry Trotz said before the game. “Don’t have the victim mentality. Have sort of the wolf mentality. I’m not saying he has that victim mentality but we haven’t given him much run support. Don’t worry about that. Just worry about stopping the puck.
“I thought he was really coming around and playing really well and getting results and then he got hurt and then it’s hard for him to get any traction,” Trotz added.
But the Islanders did give Lehner a rare lead to work with in a two-goal second period and he stopped the last 30 shots he faced.
Nelson, who exited Monday night’s 4-1 win at Colorado when he took defenseman Ian Cole’s knee to his thigh, snapped a shot from inside the left circle for his 11th goal of the season at 3:38 to give the Islanders a 2-1 lead. Anthony Beauvillier, with his 11th goal and his fourth in five games, took Josh Bailey’s feed for a one-timer from the right circle to make it 3-1 at 8:29.
The Coyotes had taken a 1-0 lead at 9:14 of the first period as Mario Kempe beat Lehner over his glove to the short side from the right circle on a shot in which he was slightly out of position. But Lehner kicked out his left pad to stop Derek Stepan’s partial breakaway at 1:52 and made a sprawling save on Conor Garland’s rebound try from the slot after stopping Clayton Keller’s initial shot from the right circle.
Josh Ho-Sang, the 28th overall pick in 2014 trying to prove to Islanders’ management he’s ready to stick in the NHL, tied the score at 1 at 17:04 of the first period on a sharp angle shot on the left for his first goal in three games since being recalled from Bridgeport on Dec. 9.