Barry Trotz knows the crucial value of having “big-moment guys,” players whose performances elevate in the tightest of moments.
The coach left it somewhat open-ended before the Islanders’ 4-2 win over the Rangers on Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden whether he believes his roster has enough of them.
“I don’t know, we’ll find out,” Trotz said. “I did last year and there’s not much change. So, I would say, yes.”
It might still be an open-ended question. The Islanders (29-15-5) nearly made a mess of what was shaping up as a neat, much-needed victory before the extended All-Star Game/bye week break over the Rangers, who were missing All-Star Artemi Panarin. The Islanders are off until facing the Canucks on Feb. 1 at Barclays Center.
They completed a stretch of seven games in 11 days with a 2-3-2 mark and avoided their third loss to the Rangers (23-21-4) in nine days.
However, the Rangers halved the Islanders’ 4-0 lead on power-play goals from Pavel Buchnevich and Chris Kreider after defenseman Scott Mayfield drew a double minor for spearing Brendan Lemiuex at 12:39 of the third period. Then, the Islanders were called for a bench minor at 16:34 when the wrong players went out for the faceoff after an icing.
“I’m ecstatic with the two points,” said an unusually tense Trotz. “We’re exhausted. We had to battle through it. It was huge for our psyche. We’ve had so many games in a short period of time. We’re mentally and physically fatigued and the break is going to do us good. If we’d lost that game in any way, shape or form, I think it would have been a big punch to the stomach.
“It’s a big win,” Trotz added. “I’m just a little emotional right now. We could have made it easy. We don’t do anything easy right now.”
The Islanders took just 18 shots on Alexandar Georgiev but top-six forwards Josh Bailey, Anthony Beauvillier, Brock Nelson and captain Anders Lee all scored and Mathew Barzal — benched in the third period for all but one, 40-second shift — got two assists. Thomas Greiss made 41 saves and the power play went 2-for-2.
“That was a little bit funky but we played a good game,” Lee said. “We needed this win before the break and we went out and got it.”
Nelson has five goals and two assists over his last six games. Over the last five games, Beauvillier has three goals and three assists, Bailey has three goals and two assists and Lee has three goals and one assist.
“We need those guys to be big for us,” Trotz said.
Bailey deflected in Noah Dobson’s shot at 13:35 of the first period on the power play and Beauvillier made it 2-0 at 16:35 on the man advantage after Greiss denied defenseman Jacob Trouba’s shorthanded chance.
Lee’s one-timer from the left circle made it 3-0 at 9:52 of the second period and Nelson pushed it to 4-0 lead at 3:13 of the third period.
The Rangers appeared to cut the deficit to 3-1 at 17:58 of the second period but Trotz successfully challenged that Jesper Fast was offside, making him 4-for-4 this season on offside challenges.
Notes & Quotes: Trotz said Cal Clutterbuck, out since his left wrist was slashed by Patrice Bergeron’s skate blade on Dec. 19 at Boston, is “progressing” with his off-ice workouts and it was possible he could resume skating on his own after the extended break…Michael Dal Colle took line rushes during warmups but was not in the lineup, with Ross Johnston instead skating on Derick Brassard’s third line with Tom Kuhnhackl.