There could be myriad reasons. Or none at all, just the fact that the Islanders are playing good hockey and have been for a sustained period. Whatever the explanation, it’s simply enough for the players to know they have had success in back-to-back games.
“We just don’t want to jinx it,” Anthony Beauvillier said. “Honestly, it goes so fast in the back-to-back, you don’t really have time to think about anything. It’s just play and play.”
The Metropolitan Division-leading Islanders set a franchise record by improving to 9-0-0 in the second game of back-to-back sets with a 2-1 win over the Wild on Sunday afternoon before a crowd of 13,825 at Barclays Center.
Beauvillier, refinding his slick-skating game on a line with Valtteri Filppula and Leo Komarov, snapped an 11-game goal drought as he matched a career high with seven shots. Thomas Greiss made 26 saves and has gone five straight appearances without allowing more than one goal, giving up only three in that span.
The Islanders (33-16-6), who have won three straight and are 9-1-2 since Jan. 13, opened a five-point lead on the second-place Capitals.
Devan Dubnyk made 32 saves for the Wild (27-24-5), who beat the Devils, 4-2, Saturday afternoon in New Jersey.
“We don’t put too much thought into that,” Filppula said of the Islanders’ success in back-to-back games (they are 6-1-2 in the front end). “Every game, you go in and you try to put in effort and try to give yourself a chance. Whenever your goalies are playing like that, it gives you a chance to win.”
“The question is asked every game we play back-to-back,” defenseman Ryan Pulock said. “A lot of times, you feel better physically in that second game. It’s being mentally sharp and being prepared. We’ve been ready to play. We’ve had good starts on the back-to-backs and it’s allowed us to get the momentum and keep carrying it. Just simplify and do our job.”
Pulock set up Devon Toews’ power-play one-timer for the winner at 2:01 of the second period, giving the rookie defenseman his fourth career goal and first with the man advantage. Mikael Granlund’s power-play goal 38 seconds into the second period had pulled the Wild into a 1-1 tie.
Filppula’s backhanded feed from the right boards in the offensive zone sprung Beauvillier to the crease to make it 1-0 at 14:05 of the first period. It marked the third straight game and the sixth game this season in which Beauvillier has skated on Filppula’s left wing, and he has five of his 13 goals while on the third line.
“Those two guys, they’re sort of like Fix-It Felix,” coach Barry Trotz said of Filppula and Komarov. “If you need someone to be fixed, you send them to that line and they get fixed.”
“We skated well and we were able to get some pucks off the forecheck and then spend a lot of time in their zone,” Filppula added. “Beauvillier skates well. He moves well. He makes good decisions with the puck.”
The Islanders protected their lead through the Wild’s third-period push with 12 shots on goal. The Islanders also had eight of their 18 blocked shots in the final 20 minutes, including captain Anders Lee using his helmet to deflect Ryan Suter’s wrist shot at 18:55 with Dubnyk off for an extra skater.
“You have to have a winning commitment,” Trotz said. “If you’re just sort of in the way, that puck just sort of goes in the net. The whole group has been all in all year.”
One constant besides winning in the Islanders’ 9-0-0 run in the second game of back-to-backs is their stingy defense. They’ve allowed a total of nine goals in the nine games:
Date Opponent Score Goalie
10/18 At LA 7-2 Lehner
10/28 At Carolina 2-1 Greiss
11/24 Carolina 4-1 Greiss
12/18 At Arizona 3-1 Lehner
12/29 At Toronto 4-0 Lehner
1/13 Tampa Bay 5-1 Greiss
1/18 At Wash. 2-0 Greiss
2/2 LA 4-2 Lehner
2/10 Minnesota 2-1 Greiss