VANCOUVER, British Columbia — The Islanders needed a win but, more specifically, they needed to start playing the way they were before they departed for Western Canada.
It wasn’t a complete effort — the second period was a bit of a mess — but a strong start, an airtight third period and 36 saves from Robin Lehner were enough in a 4-0 win over the sliding Canucks on Saturday night at Rogers Arena in the Islanders’ last game before Monday afternoon’s trade deadline.
“This was one of our biggest games of the year,” defenseman Ryan Pulock said. “We knew we had to come out with a good effort.”
The Metropolitan Division-leading Islanders (36-18-7), who lead the Capitals by four points, opened the trip with subpar efforts in Wednesday night’s 4-2 loss at Calgary and Thursday night’s 4-3 overtime loss at Edmonton.
In both games, they fell behind 2-0, spent way too much time playing in their defensive zone as they struggled on breakouts and were unable to establish a forecheck.
But the Islanders opened a 2-0 lead in the first period on the Canucks (26-28-8), who are in a 2-6-2 skid.
“We had a good first period. That’s a start,” Islanders coach Barry Trotz said. “The second period wasn’t great. We bent, but Robin was real good and we got some high commitment on our penalty kill.”
Lehner, who made 37 saves in Edmonton as Trotz ended his eight-game stretch of rotating his goalies, said setting a career high with his fourth shutout wasn’t all that special.
“No,” Lehner said. “I just want to win with this team. Every point we get with this group feels amazing. We’re still pushing in the standings.”
The question is whether Islanders president and general manager Lou Lamoriello will make any additions before the trade deadline. Trotz said he doesn’t think there will be any “deletions” from the NHL roster.
Two teams in the division already have made significant moves. The third-place Blue Jackets acquired top-line center Matt Duchene and forward Ryan Dzingel in separate deals with the Senators. The Capitals picked up left wing Carl Hagelin from the Kings and defenseman Nick Jensen from the Red Wings.
Trotz flip-flopped right wings Josh Bailey and Leo Komarov, putting Bailey on third-line center Valtteri Filppula’s trio with Anthony Beauvillier and inserting Komarov on Mathew Barzal’s wing with Tom Kuhnhackl.
The Canucks outshot the Islanders 15-3 in the second period and the Islanders had to kill off three power plays, including a 25-second five-on-three. Defenseman Scott Mayfield saved a goal by sweeping the puck off the line and, in the first period, Lehner got a pad on Jay Beagle’s shorthanded breakaway.
“The second period was like the rest of the road trip. It was not us,” said Cal Clutterbuck, who scored an empty-net goal with 1:14 remaining. “The third period was very familiar for us. It was nice to put in a solid 20 that way.”
Fourth-line center Casey Cizikas gave the Islanders a 1-0 lead with a backhander at the crease at 4:48 of the first period. It was his 17th goal, extending his career high. Rookie defenseman Devon Toews, playing his first NHL game in his hometown, lifted his point streak to five games with an assist.
Pulock’s one-timer from the left circle at 14:05 of the first on a delayed penalty made it 2-0.
Beauvillier scored at 2:34 of the third period, getting a feed from Bailey on a rush.