LAS VEGAS — Lane Lambert got the “so-called response” he needed to see from his Islanders.
“It’s a huge win for us in a back-to-back game,” the coach said. “I thought we were resilient. We bent a little bit at times but we didn’t break.”
The Islanders topped Pacific Division-leading Vegas, 5-2, on Saturday night at T-Mobile Arena to erase some of the bad feelings from Friday night’s dud of a 5-4 loss to the bottom-feeding Coyotes.
“It’s really big,” said Zach Parise, who along with Brock Nelson clinched the game with empty-net goals. “I think there was 24 hours of a lot of reflection from last night. We were pretty determined to have a better effort and play for a better outcome.
“I think everyone had to reflect on what happened in Arizona. What can we do better? There were some holes to our game [Friday] night that we had to correct.”
The Islanders (18-13-1), who snapped a three-game losing streak that included Tuesday’s well-played 4-3 shootout loss to the NHL-best Bruins that started this five-game road trip, were mostly better in the defensive end on Saturday in closing out plays.
But they also relied on a brilliant effort from Semyon Varlamov, who made 35 saves before exiting at 13:38 of the third period.
“I have no idea,” Lambert said when asked how Varlamov hurt himself. “I was surprised when he came over.”
Logan Thompson stopped 21 shots for Vegas (22-10-1), which had scored 10 goals in winning its previous two games.
The Islanders, clinging to the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference, improved to 8-4-1 against teams that held playoff spots at the start of Saturday’s play. They were 10-9-0 against the rest of the league, including two losses to the Coyotes.
The Islanders next face the injury-plagued but defending Stanley Cup champion Avalanche on Monday night.
In addition to Varlamov, the Islanders got key contributions from injury fill-ins Simon Holmstrom and Hudson Fasching, who both scored in the second period. Fasching made it 2-1 at 4:30 with his second goal in four games as an Islander as he muscled to the crease from the left wall. Holmstrom added his first career goal at 17:36 to make it 3-1.
“It was unbelievable,” Holmstrom said. “I was just trying to get a shot on net and it went in. The team win is the most important thing and the team made a heck of an effort today and really deserved it.”
Holmstrom and Fasching were needed with right wings Kyle Palmieri and Cal Clutterbuck missing the game with upper-body injuries. Holmstrom and Fasching had come out of the lineup against the Coyotes with Palmieri and Anthony Beauvillier returning from upper- and lower-body injuries, respectively.
“It feels good to get a win and be able to contribute and help the team,” said Fasching, who has three goals in 43 career NHL games. “Tipped goals are fun, too, but it’s fun to shoot the puck into the net. You feel like you earned it a little bit more.”
Fasching did take a holding penalty against defenseman Brayden McNabb that led to Reilly Smith’s second power-play goal at 3:29 of the third period as Vegas closed to 3-2. Reilly’s first power-play goal tied the score at 1-1 at 1:11 of the second period.
The Islanders took a 1-0 lead on Anders Lee’s one-timer from the slot off Beauvillier’s feed at 18:58 of the first period.
“This was huge,” Lee said. “This is a tough game against a good team. We’re pressing a little bit lately and not getting some of the results.”