Josh Bailey scores twice as Islanders win in regulation for a second straight game
More than four months ago, the Islanders beat the Jets in Winnipeg for their second straight regulation win.
But that was the last time they strung together consecutive wins in regulation until Friday night, when they beat the Jets again, 5-2, at UBS Arena.
"It was a big win," said Brock Nelson, who extended his goal streak to four games and his point streak to five by opening the scoring with a power-play goal at 6:38 of the first period, his team-high 23rd goal.
"Everything’s better and feels right when you’re winning. We’re trying to string some together. Nobody is content or happy with where we’re at."
The Islanders (23-24-8) were coming off a 6-0 win over the visiting Blue Jackets on Thursday night and got Mathew Barzal and defenseman Zdeno Chara back in the lineup after each missed six games with an injury.
"We’re just going to keep approaching it one day at a time," said Josh Bailey, whose first two-goal effort of the season gave him six goals and his first two-game goal streak of the season. "You can’t really look down the road too far no matter what position you’re in."
It may be too little, too late to pull the Islanders back into playoff position — they are 18 points behind the Capitals for the Eastern Conference’s final wild-card spot — but president and general manager Lou Lamoriello has decisions to make before the NHL trade deadline, and the better his team performs, the more trade value some of his players may have.
For instance, goalie Semyon Varlamov made 27 saves in his second straight solid performance. He again is seeing more regular playing time after Ilya Sorokin, the clear No. 1 netminder now, started 11 of 13 games.
Varlamov had a season-high 44 saves in Monday’s 5-4 loss to the Avalanche. With several playoff contenders needing goalie help, he might be the Islanders’ most valuable trade asset.
Or Bailey, whose rebound goal put the Islanders ahead 4-2 at 7:14 of the third period. He made it 2-1 at 1:09 of the second period, following his own rebound to the net, 40 seconds before Anders Lee made it to 3-1 on the one-year anniversary of injuring his right anterior cruciate ligament.
"There’s lingering things that come with it," said Lee, who has scored six goals in his last three games. "The strength is there. The confidence is there. It’s one of those things that’s not going to feel like it’s completely gone for a little bit."
Or impending unrestricted free agent Cal Clutterbuck, whose empty-net goal made it 5-2 at 15:16 of the third period.
"Mostly, the difference is that we’re doing things more consistently," Clutterbuck said. "Through the course of the year, we’ve been able to play a certain way, play well and win games that we should win. Then we show up the next night, we don’t play the same way. We don’t have the same sort of detail. It’s been the story of the year so far. The goal is to be that consistent force we have in the past."
Then again, no white flag has been officially waved, so winning streaks — however rare — are welcome. The Islanders last won consecutive games in regulation on Nov. 4-6, and their last winning streak was three games from Jan. 17-21.
Blake Wheeler’s video-reviewed goal at the crease brought the Jets within 3-2 just 20 seconds into the third period.
Nikolaj Ehlers fed Kyle Connor on a two-on-none to tie the score at 1 at 16:58 of the first period.
Connor Hellebuyck made 34 saves for the Jets (26-28-10).