OTTAWA — Lane Lambert was asked Sunday shortly before departing for the start of a four-game road trip whether rallying after allowing the first goal was any more difficult as the visiting team without the last line change. Or because of any of the other factors that make playing away from home challenging.
“I don’t know,” the Islanders coach said. “Let’s hope we don’t have to. It’s not something that we want to consistently try to do.”
Yet they have.
The Islanders (10-6-0) have won eight of 10 as they face the Senators late Monday afternoon at Canadian Tire Centre. But they needed to rally three times from one-goal deficits in Saturday night’s 4-3 overtime win over the Blue Jackets at UBS Arena.
It marked the 11th time already this season the Islanders have yielded the first goal.
That’s the bad news. The good news is the Islanders are 5-6-0 overall when the opponent scores first, albeit 1-3-0 on the road.
“I don’t know if slow start [Saturday] was the word,” Zach Parise said after scoring the overtime winner against the Blue Jackets. “We have had those a little too much lately.”
Continually having to rally is probably not a sustainable model for success as the Islanders look to return to the playoffs after last season’s miss. But it is a decided improvement over last season, when they went 8-25-4 after the opponent scored first.
“It’s not something you’re looking for,” Josh Bailey said. “I think it’s great to have that resilience. We always have the belief that we’ve just got to stick with it and keep working. You want to get out to leads and keep pushing. It’s just kind of the way the chips have fallen at this point.”
The foundation of the Islanders’ penchant for comebacks or overcoming sluggish starts has been their goaltending. Ilya Sorokin, the expected starter against the Senators, is 7-4-0 with a 2.17 goals-against average and a .932 save percentage, ranking fourth in the NHL in those two categories entering Sunday’s play.
Semyon Varlamov is 3-2-0 with a 2.93 GAA and a .913 save percentage.
“We certainly have that luxury,” Bailey said. “I don’t know, from their perspective, what they’re thinking. You’re going to have times throughout a game where maybe you’re not always at your best. Sometimes, we’re lucky enough to have our goalies bail us out in those situations. And I think that gives us life and that gives us some more juice.”
Sorokin, giving his perspective, said he knows it’s his role to make sure the Islanders do have a chance to win, even if they fall behind.
“I’ll say it’s good to have a comeback every game,” Sorokin said. “But I should give us the chance to start 1-0 not [0-1].”
Notes & quotes: All players participated in Sunday’s practice at Northwell Health Ice Center in East Meadow . . . Parise continued skating on Mathew Barzal’s top line with Oliver Wahlstrom and Bailey remained with Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Kyle Palmieri after Lambert made those tweaks during Saturday’s game.