The Islanders got a desperately needed win. Now they desperately need a winning streak.
"We knew at some point we’re just going to have to do it," Mathew Barzal said. "When you lose a couple late like we have at home, that confidence, that championship mentality that I really thought we had the last couple of years, it just seems like it just wasn’t there for a little bit."
The last-place Islanders (7-11-5), who did not practice on Sunday, will face the Red Wings on Tuesday night at Little Caesars Arena after topping the Devils, 4-2, on Saturday night to finally get their first win in eight tries at UBS Arena.
The Islanders, coming off back-to-back berths in the NHL semifinals, have not won consecutive games since Nov. 4-6 and still are mired in a 2-9-3 skid. That includes a 4-3 loss to the Predators on Thursday night at UBS Arena in which Eeli Tolvanen scored the winner with 11.5 seconds left in regulation.
The Islanders also lost, 4-3, in overtime in Detroit on Dec. 4 with defenseman Moritz Seider scoring at 3:33 of the extra period to negate Oliver Wahlstrom’s two power-play goals and Cal Clutterbuck’s shorthanded goal.
But the Islanders got centers Brock Nelson (lower body) and Casey Cizikas (COVID-19) back on Saturday, leaving only injured defenseman Ryan Pulock (lower body) unavailable.
"That’s a huge boost," said Barzal, who has a goal and eight assists in his six-game point streak. "We’ve been hit with some ugly scenarios this year. To almost have a full roster back, you saw their impact. It’s just nice to have the whole group back together, and hopefully we can get on a little run here."
But time is growing short for the Islanders, even though they are only 23 games into their season. They are 10 points behind the Red Wings (13-12-3) in the Eastern Conference standings — they’ve played five fewer games than Detroit has — and 11 points behind the Bruins for the second wild-card spot.
In other words, the Islanders must start collecting points with regularity for a chance at a fourth straight playoff berth under coach Barry Trotz.
Trotz has begun to reshape his lineup. Fourth-line regular Matt Martin has been a healthy scratch in favor of Ross Johnston for four games. Top-six fixture Anthony Beauvillier, who has gone 13 games without a point and whose defense was suspect against the Predators, was a healthy scratch against the Devils.
Kyle Palmieri has gone nine games without a point and has only one goal. Josh Bailey has three assists in his last four games but also has only one goal this season and has taken only 14 shots on goal, including four against the Devils.
"Hopefully we can stay healthy," Trotz said. "We’re just going to worry about the next game. We got one win. We’re still looking up. The view never changes unless you’re in front, and we’re not in front. So the view is not going to change until we start winning some hockey games."