GLENDALE, Ariz. — The Islanders prefer not to get caught in wide-open games. If that style isn’t necessarily the most exciting, so be it. Simple and methodical with good goaltending has worked for Barry Trotz’s team through back-to-back runs to the NHL semifinals.
In that sense, Saturday night’s 3-0 victory over the winless Coyotes at Gila River Arena, five games into a 13-game road trip, was the closest the Islanders have played to the way they want.
"We got a little bit loose in the first [period]," Trotz said. "Even in the third, we were good until the last shift. They got one good chance. A little bit better. We’ve still got another level."
The Islanders (2-2-1), who had allowed an uncharacteristic 11 goals in their first two games and were averaging 35.5 shots allowed through their first four games, extended their point streak to three games heading into Sunday night’s game at Vegas.
"They had looks and, when they did, [Ilya] Sorokin came up big for us," said Cal Clutterbuck, who opened the scoring at 16:32 of the first period as he kept the puck on a two-on-one rush. "I thought, all in all, in the third period, we found a way to lock them down and play good team defense. Really, tonight was just about getting the win."
Sorokin made 26 saves for his fourth career shutout and his first this season, preserving it by turning aside Nick Schmaltz from in tight with less than a minute to play in the third period. He had lost his shutout bid in Tuesday’s 4-1 win in Chicago with 26 seconds remaining when Mackenzie Entwistle got free.
"It’s a good bonus for winning the game," Sorokin said. "But two games ago in Chicago, they scored a goal in the last minute and it’s not a big problem because we had the win. For us, we need wins."
The Islanders took only 12 shots through the first two periods while building a 2-0 lead on Brock Nelson’s power-play goal with 10.8 seconds left in the second period. Josh Bailey toe-dragged the puck to create space to shoot in the slot, and his assist gave him 513 career points, tying him with Bobby Nystrom for 10th place on the Islanders’ all-time list.
The Coyotes (0-4-1) had allowed 12 goals in the first two games of their three-game homestand and had lost their season opener, 8-2, in Columbus on Oct. 14. They also entered Saturday having killed off only three of nine power-play chances and now have been outscored 12-2 in the second period this season.
The Islanders went 1-for-2 on the man advantage.
Trotz swapped right wings after hinting he would break up Nelson’s second line, switching Bailey to Mathew Barzal’s top line with Anders Lee and putting Kyle Palmieri with Nelson and Anthony Beauvillier.
"Not too much [difference]," Bailey said. "That’s the great thing about being a winger on this team. It doesn’t matter what line you end up with, you’re getting a quality centerman and another quality winger to play with. I’ve played with those guys plenty in the past and I thought Nellie’s line played exceptional tonight as well."
Neither team created much in the first period and the Islanders didn’t get their first shot until a wrister from Jean-Gabriel Pageau — back in the lineup after missing Thursday’s 3-2 overtime loss to the Blue Jackets because of stomach illness — at 8:36.
Beauvillier made it 3-0 at 10:51 of the third period, deking Karel Vejmelka (21 saves) with a backhander at the crease 31 seconds after Palmieri’s apparent goal was overturned for goalie interference.