The Islanders are proving they can play with the NHL’s best teams, even during stretches in games when they’re not playing all that well.
Thanks to some spectacular goaltending by Thomas Greiss, it meant a fourth straight win Thursday night as the Islanders earned a 3-2 shootout victory over the Penguins at Barclays Center to sweep the home-and-home series.
“I think it’s a step in the right direction,” said right wing Josh Bailey, who scored the lone goal in the shootout and whose shorthanded goal as he exited the penalty box tied the score at 1-1 at 14:46 of the second period and extended his point streak to seven games. “We’re not going to get too carried away, but it was two games we felt we played well in.”
The Islanders (7-4-1), wearing their blue alternate jerseys with the “NY” logo for the first time, opened a three-game homestand and will end a five-game stretch against divisional opponents on Saturday against the Devils.
“We had that belief right after training camp,” said Greiss, who made 29 saves, including a diving poke check to stop Sidney Crosby’s overtime breakaway. He turned aside Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang in the shootout.
“The whole time we’ve been playing solid hockey,” Greiss added. “We like the structure and everyone is sticking together and everyone is chipping in. That’s the way to win.”
Matt Murray stopped 24 shots for the Penguins (6-2-3).
The Islanders took a 2-1 lead at 10:11 of the third period as defenseman Thomas Hickey, on the right boards, fed the puck to the net, where it banked in off Anders Lee’s left skate.
Lee was called for slashing on a light tap on defenseman Jamie Oleksiak, and Malkin’s power-play one-timer from the right circle tied the score at 2 at 12:02.
The Islanders began the third period skating on their heels too much. “They came out with a good push and we were a little sloppy,” Lee said. “We knew it. We settled back in. You reset. If you escape, like we did, it’s one of those things you can bounce back from.”
The Islanders played eight of their first 11 games on the road, but Thursday marked the start of a much more home-friendly November. They will play eight of 13 games in Brooklyn.
That will take them through Thanksgiving, which coach Barry Trotz said is considered the first milepost in the season to truly gauge how a team is doing.
Trotz, of course, expects his new team, which has missed the playoffs the past two seasons, to remain in the mix.
“I think we believe in ourselves,” he said. “Every night we drop the puck, we have a chance to win. We have to make sure our game has a lot of substance to it. It’s not just drop the puck and see what happens. We’re looking for ways to win every game and we’re going to try and win every game. That’s the mentality we want, home or away.”
The Penguins took a 1-0 lead on Dominik Simon’s power-play goal at 6:20 of the first period as he got free at the left post to knock in Jake Guentzel’s rebound after Mathew Barzal hooked Phil Kessel in the offensive zone.
Bailey was called for hooking the Penguins’ Carl Hagelin at 12:33 of the second period, negating the Islanders’ second power play just 14 seconds into it. Defenseman Adam Pelech followed with an interference call on Malkin at 13:42, meaning the Penguins wound up skating five-on-three.
But Casey Cizikas blocked Letang’s shot and sprung Bailey for a breakaway for the Islanders’ third shorthanded goal.