The saying usually is that a team will go only as far as its stars will carry it.
But in the Islanders' case many times this season, it's been their pluggers, not their stars, who have made the difference. That was true again Monday night.
Cal Clutterbuck and Casey Cizikas scored third-period goals to snap a tie and propel the Isles to a 5-3 win over the Avalanche at Barclays Center.
Those two, along with Matt Martin, have been part of the only forward line that's been inked the same way into pretty much every lineup going on two years straight, and they have delivered timely goals as well as body checks and a nasty edge this season.
"When you work hard in life, you get rewarded," coach Jack Capuano said. "The way they're playing, they deserve to be rewarded."
After a seesaw first 40 minutes in which the teams traded goals, with the Avalanche controlling the opening period and the Islanders controlling the second, the Isles got the opening they needed from that fourth line.
Cizikas won a draw in the Colorado zone, Marek Zidlicky and Thomas Hickey exchanged passes and Clutterbuck tipped Hickey's low shot over goaltender Semyon Varlamov's pads and in at 1:52 for a 3-2 lead.
Two fourth-line shifts later, Clutterbuck chipped a puck down the boards and Martin gave chase, forcing Zach Redmond into a hasty pass that went right to Cizikas. He buried a wrist shot past Varlamov at 8:16 to put the Islanders ahead 4-2.
True to their collective lunch-pail nature, the members of that line were bothered by Jarome Iginla's tying goal in the second period, which came while they were on the ice, more than they were enthused about their later exploits.
"We were all pretty upset we let that goal in, especially so quick after we took the lead," Cizikas said of Iginla's goal, which came 41 seconds after Mikhail Grabovski put the Isles in front 2-1 in the second. "We're not really scoring pretty goals. That's not our style. You just keep it simple."
Clutterbuck has six goals, fourth on the team, and Cizikas has four. Six of those 10 goals have come in the third, a period in which the Islanders have been beasts this season, outscoring opponents 36-21.
On a night when John Tavares didn't register a shot on goal and Kyle Okposo wasn't especially sharp, aside from a five-on-three goal with 1.4 seconds left in the first period, the Islanders needed their secondary scorers to be their primary ones.
"It's been mentioned a lot about the third and fourth lines trying to help out scoring-wise," said Ryan Strome, who made a nifty pass to set up Grabovski's goal and cemented the win with an empty-netter with 47.9 seconds to go. "There's a lot of pressure on those first two lines, so we have to chip in."
Thomas Greiss made 25 saves for his second straight win and the Islanders improved to 3-0-1 in their last four despite allowing the first goal in each of them. The Rangers make their first visit to Barclays Center on Wednesday night, and the Islanders seem to have found a groove just in time.
Just not led by who you'd think would lead them.