Islanders top Vegas as Mathew Barzal's goal wins it in overtime
It’s just a two-game winning streak. To Lane Lambert, it’s reassurance.
“It’s just a matter of us being rewarded for our efforts and having not been so much over the course of the last month,” the Islanders’ coach said. “To me, it’s just reassurance that we have a group here that can do great things.”
Mathew Barzal snapped in the winner with 31.5 seconds remaining in overtime to send the Islanders into their eight-day All-Star break/bye week with a 2-1 win over Vegas on Saturday night at UBS Arena.
“If it went the other way the last two games, this break would have been tough,” Barzal said. “For us to kind of put ourselves back in the mix is huge going into the break.”
“It was a good couple of days,” said Anders Lee, who scored his fourth goal in four games. “It’s a good starting point. Now we take the break and get our minds away from the game for a couple of days, rejuvenate the body and come back firing and pick up where we left off.”
Still, February, March and the start of April will have to be radically different from this month for the Islanders. They went 4-8-3 in January, leaving them in 10th place in the Eastern Conference, two points out of a playoff spot as they try to avoid missing the postseason for a second straight year.
They scored two or fewer goals for the 12th time in 13 games. They also were 0-for-1 on the power play — albeit with five shots — to deepen their man-advantage rut to 0-for-25 in their last 10 games and 3-for-64 (4.7%) in their last 24.
But Brock Nelson’s line with Lee and Kyle Palmieri — who has five primary assists in four games since returning from a lengthy absence — made it easier on the rest of the lineup and goalie Semyon Varlamov stopped 44 shots.
Varlamov denied William Carrier’s penalty shot 26 seconds into overtime after defenseman Adam Pelech hindered his breakaway. He also robbed Reilly Smith with his paddle on a power-play try at 5:53 of the second period.
“I got lucky,” Varlamov said. “The whole net was open and it happens like once a year. The guy is probably going to score 99 times out of 100. I’m glad I made that save. It was unbelievable. It feels amazing, like one of those days that happens once a year.”
Logan Thompson made 35 saves for Vegas (29-18-4), which has lost four straight and scored five goals in that span.
The Islanders went ahead 1-0 at 3:52 of the second period. Palmieri skated hard to the crease from the right before falling and Lee, also falling, knocked in the loose puck from the low slot. It was the seventh straight goal scored by either Nelson or Lee.
“It’s exciting to see that,” said Barzal, who scored his first goal in 11 games as he skated with Anthony Beauvillier and Casey Cizikas for the fourth straight game. “A lot of time this year, it’s been tough to find chemistry all around. So for them to be going like that, it’s a big spark for our team. Hopefully we can get some lines in concrete and go on a little run here. That’s what we’re looking to do.”
Vegas, also playing on back-to-back nights after Friday’s 4-1 loss to the Rangers at Madison Square Garden, tied it at 1-1 at 16:08 of the second period. Chandler Stephenson won a puck battle with defenseman Scott Mayfield behind the Islanders’ crease and fed a wide-open Carrier in front after he slipped away from Cizikas.