The Islanders are settling into a rhythm of playing consistently and playing frequently at home. And winning.
A dominating 4-0 victory over the struggling Coyotes on Friday night at UBS Arena made it three straight wins and six in their last seven. The Islanders, who are 7-1-1 at UBS Arena since Dec. 8, will host the Maple Leafs on Saturday night.
Brock Nelson scored twice, Josh Bailey and Adam Pelech had two assists each and Ilya Sorokin needed to make only 17 saves for his fourth shutout.
"That’s the style we want to play,’’ said defenseman Scott Mayfield, who scored the first goal. "When we got in their end, we were able to control the puck. We didn’t give them easy exits."
The win moved the Islanders (14-13-6) over NHL .500 for the first time since they were 5-4-2 on Nov. 11. It also moved them out of last place in the Metropolitan Division and past the Devils and Flyers into sixth place, 14 points out of a wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. The Islanders have played at least four games fewer than any team holding a playoff spot in the conference.
It opened a second straight seven-game homestand — over a rapid-fire 12 days — meaning the Islanders will play 14 of 15 games at UBS Arena after going 5-1-1 on their last homestand.
This after opening the season with a 13-game road trip. Extended stretches like that are not normal, either at home or on the road, and coach Barry Trotz often has warned that a team can get stale if it stays in the same routine for too long.
"It’s still a boys’ game, so you’ve still got to make it fun," Trotz said. "When it feels stale, just like anything else, your mind goes numb a little bit. We’re going to have to find some ways to be creative."
The Islanders never let the Coyotes (10-25-4) get close after taking a two-goal lead in the first period.
Nelson’s first goal made it 3-0 at 1:22 of the third period. He beat Scott Wedgewood (30 saves) over the goalie’s glove as he led a two-on-one rush.
Nelson’s team-leading 13th goal, which survived a video review, pushed it to 4-0 at 9:59. The puck went in off Nelson as he slid into the crease along with the Coyotes’ Lawson Crouse and into Wedgewood.
The Islanders got off to a somewhat sluggish start, not getting their first shots until Zach Parise and Noah Dobson got pucks on net on the power play after Ilya Lyubushkin slashed Mathew Barzal at 9:15.
From there, the Islanders took over. Bailey had the Islanders’ first five-on-five shot at 13:15 and they had eight of the last 10 shots in the period, scoring twice.
Mayfield lined up a shot from the right circle through Anders Lee’s screen at 13:51. Austin Czarnik, elevated from the taxi squad earlier in the day to play on top-line center Mathew Barzal’s right wing, made it 2-0 at 16:49, tapping in Mayfield’s feed from the right circle to the far post.
Oliver Wahlstrom did not play in the third period. "Wahlly’s fine,’’ Trotz said. "That was a coach’s decision that he didn’t get a shift."
The Islanders were two forwards short, with Casey Cizikas taking only one further shift after being checked hard into the boards 23 seconds into the third period.