It was not disproportionate to say that Nick Leddy’s goal late in the first period Saturday night was “huge.” It was big for the Islanders because it tied the score and ensured that they did not let another game slip away. It was large for him because it ended a goal-less streak since Nov. 24. Mostly, it was substantial because it arguably was not even the most important thing he did.
Leddy played a solid all-around game after that, Doug Weight said, calling the final 40 minutes of a vital 4-3 win over the Blue Jackets “probably his best two periods in a month.”
The whole effort was a reminder of how much the defenseman means to the Islanders and how much they need him to score goals and — even more essential — help prevent them.
“He’s a huge piece of our team,” Weight said after practice Sunday in preparation for Monday night’s game against the Nashville Predators at Barc lays Center. “He’s a real laid-back guy. You know Nick, he’s a wonderful kid. With his goal, with the game he had in the last two periods, he was much better. He was hard on the puck.”
For Leddy and the Islanders lately, the statistics sheet has been hard on the eyes. He has a minus-27 rating, a precipitous drop from minus-3 a season ago and the plus-18 posted in his first season with the Islanders in 2014-15. Weight said the goal drought possibly affected the rest of Leddy’s game.
The power-play goal he scored Saturday made the score 1-1 and provided a boost for a team that had fallen into early holes in its previous two games, 4-1 and 5-0 losses. The usually stoic Leddy’s fist pump on the ice revealed how significant it was for him.
“Very relieving. Just a very good feeling,” he said afterward. “Just to get our team on the board, it was huge.”
It had been a long couple of months. “You just keep playing your game, just keep getting pucks on the net, keep creating opportunities. The more you shoot, the better chance to score,” he said.
Weight, who paired Leddy with Sebastian Aho during practice Sunday, said: “I just want that speed and what we call that Tarzan strength getting into people around our net, and getting into them fast in the areas that we call Death Valley — in the zone where teams are getting too much room, too much time, too much ability to get to our net. It’s a challenge for Nick and we’re going to keep challenging him.’’
Notes & quotes: F Tanner Fritz is “a little banged up,” Weight said, and might not be able to play against the Predators.