The way the Islanders played Tuesday night — attacking the crease with a no-frills persistence and as a tight, five-man unit on defense — is the way they must play but the way they haven’t played enough of lately, certainly not on their 1-2-0 road trip.
"We had four lines, three defense pairings, everyone was playing on top of their game, playing for each other, supporting each other," Travis Zajac said. "We were aggressive. We played the right way."
It all clicked for a 6-1 win over the Rangers before a sell-out crowd of 1,400 at Nassau Coliseum, pulling the Islanders (29-13-4) even with the Capitals atop the East Division. Those teams play three times in a row starting Thursday.
Josh Bailey returned to the lineup after a two-game injury absence with with two goals and an assist, playing on Jean-Gabriel Pageau’s third line with Anthony Beauvillier. The streaky Beauvillier had a goal and three assists and Pageau added a goal and an assist.
"I think everything I touched seemed to go in," said Beauvillier, whose four-point game matched his career high. "Those kind of nights you just appreciate. I thought our line and the whole group was really going well tonight. One of those nights where you take advantage of them and appreciate them."
Semyon Varlamov made 25 saves, continually denying the Rangers before the Islanders broke it open with a three-goal third period.
"We get more done when we play north," coach Barry Trotz said. "There was a 10-minute stretch in the second period where we started getting too cute. We stayed with it. We got to our game and when we did we got a lot more done.
"A guy like Michael Dal Colle broke up a lot of plays as they were trying to exit," Trotz added. "We took good angles. We closed time and space and when they did get pucks out and got on the rush, we didn’t duplicate. We went in our proper spots. I thought we played more of a 200-foot game."
Bailey capped a strong first period, making it 1-0 at 17:42 as he poked Pageau’s backhand feed to the crease past Igor Shesterkin (22 saves).
It marked the Islanders’ first goal in regulation play in 174:46, stretching to Zajac’s second-period goal in Thursday’s 4-1 loss in Boston. The Bruins also won, 3-0, the next night before the Islanders ended the road trip as rookie goalie Ilya Sorokin stole two points with 30 saves in a 1-0 overtime win in Philadelphia on Sunday.
Beauvillier’s power-play goal at 5:45 of the second period gave the Islanders a 3-0 lead. Again, it resulted from getting a puck toward the net. Defenseman Noah Dobson’s shot was deflected right to Beauvillier in the right circle for a one-timer.
The Islanders’ power play was 0-for-10 on the road trip and 1-for-19 over the last seven games.
"The Rangers have been playing really well," Bailey said. "We wanted to do our best to push them back down."
Notes & quotes: A moment of silence was held prior to the opening faceoff after Tuesday’s fatal shooting at a Stop & Shop in West Hempstead…The Islanders improved to 19-2-2 at home…Brock Nelson and Jordan Eberle also scored…Rookie Oliver Wahlstrom was a healthy scratch with Bailey returning…Dobson was back in for Braydon Coburn after being a healthy scratch on Sunday… Cal Clutterbuck (undisclosed) missed his third straight game …The Islanders announced 80% of suite and club seating has been sold for under-construction UBS Arena…Defenseman Ryan Pulock played in his 240th straight game, the ninth longest streak in team history…Pageau won 10-of-14 faceoffs and the Islanders were 28-of-43 overall.
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