It was not a goaltending clinic nor a game with picture-perfect hockey.
“It wasn’t a Rembrandt,” cracked Doug Weight.
But it was an Islanders win, a 6-4 last-goal-wins type of game, the sort in which the two points count more than style points.
After an energetic rally that fell just short in their 3-2 loss to the Devils on Saturday night in Newark, the Islanders were determined to make Devils goaltender and Farmingville native Keith Kinkaid work to see the shots coming at him. They didn’t mind a post-whistle shoving match or two, or 12.
Kinkaid and Islanders backup J-F Berube weren’t terribly sharp, and it was the Islanders who took the most advantage of that. They ran their home point streak to 11 straight (9-0-2) as they prepared to head out for a nine-game sojourn across the continent that will span the March 1 trade deadline and carry them into the home stretch.
“I don’t think anyone doubted we’d come out the way we did tonight,” said Andrew Ladd, who scored a shorthanded goal — his eighth goal in the last 11 games —in the second period to give the Islanders a 4-1 lead. “We wanted to pick up where we left off in the third [Saturday], and we did that.”
Miles Wood’s power-play goal at 9:15 put the Devils in front 1-0, but the Islanders scored the next four, with two from Ryan Strome sandwiched around a wraparound goal by Casey Cizikas that seemed to catch Kinkaid adrift mentally. Ladd’s goal at 11:59 of the second gave the Isles a three-goal lead, but Kyle Palmieri and Joseph Blandisi scored to make it 4-3 after two periods.
John Tavares and Jason Chimera scored 34 seconds apart in the opening minute of the third period to give the Islanders a 6-3 lead and carry them on their way with a good feeling. They avoided consecutive regulation losses for the eighth straight time (6-0-2 after a regulation loss since mid-December) and continued their domination at Barclays Center, lifting their home record to 20-8-6.
Now, figuring out how to transfer this to the road is the big question. The nine-game trip begins in Detroit on Tuesday night and finishes in St. Louis on March 11, and the Isles’ 7-13-4 road record does not inspire confidence.
“There’s not a good feeling, not a good vibe on the road right now,” said Weight, who hinted at changes in daily routines, in meeting times and in line and defense combinations away from home. “We’re built to be a good road team. We’ve been here [at home] a lot and we’ve been great here, so it’s been a bit of a crutch. Hopefully we get out on the road and get together as a team.”
The win kept the Islanders right on the edge of the Eastern Conference playoff picture, with the Maple Leafs winning to keep the Isles on the outside looking in for the time being. But business again was taken care of at home, and the Isles have something to lean on as the bags are packed.
“We’ve taken advantage of our time here since Christmas,” Cizikas said. “Now we’ve got to find a way to get some wins on a tough road trip. We’re up for the challenge. We’re ready.”