CALGARY — The Islanders’ No. 1 ranked penalty kill is rightly getting the most attention for the team of late and that unit’s work was the main factor in Tuesday’s 4-1 win over the Minnesota Wild.
But the power play, which hasn’t been as consistent this season, did its part as well. The Isles’ power play scored two goals in three opportunities, only the fifth time this season the power play scored more than once in a game.
The Islanders’ power play is ranked 11th in the league at 19.9 percent efficiency, thanks to an 8-for-31 run over the last nine games. It’s perhaps no coincidence that the Isles are 6-2-1 in those nine games. The Flames, Thursday night’s opponent here, have the 30th-ranked penalty kill in the league.
“I think we’re just forcing teams to make plays on us more,” said Anders Lee, who was parked in front of Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk on both Frans Nielsen’s and John Tavares’ goals, both of which Lee assisted on. “You get pucks on net, around the net, you’re forcing teams to make a clear, make a save and then you never know what can happen.”
The Islanders power play is incredibly top-heavy towards the first unit — that makes sense given Tavares is with that group. But up until the current nine-game run, that top unit wasn’t shooting the puck enough to create chances and havoc.
“Dougie (assistant coach and power play coordinator Doug Weight) showed us some video a few weeks ago, just to remind us that we needed to get pucks going toward the net more,” Nielsen said. “We had to make some changes. We couldn’t just keep waiting for the perfect play.”
Nielsen’s goal on Tuesday, which made it 2-0, looked pretty swell — a redirection from the high slot off a feed from Tavares that’s designed to look like a shot to get the defenders and goaltender moving, but then results in a “high tip,” or long-range deflection that both Nielsen and Tavares can be effective with.
Tavares’ goal, equally important to extend the lead back to two goals just 2:42 into the third, came off a scramble created when Kyle Okposo delivered a quick pass into the slot that caromed off Lee’s stick, then Ryan Suter’s, and went to Tavares for a tap-in.
“The guys are moving the puck, they’re shooting pucks,” coach Jack Capuano said. “They’re not just looking for the sexy play right now.”
Notes & quotes: Mikhail Grabovski (upper body) and Calvin de Haan (lower body) both remained on Long Island and neither will join the Isles before next week. Steve Bernier had an assist and an effective night on Tuesday up front and Ryan Pulock is likely to make his NHL debut either Thursday here or Sunday in Edmonton.