The Islanders keep passing tests. So now they have a chance to match their longest single-season winning streak since 1990.
“We don’t really think about stuff like that,” coach Barry Trotz said. “We’re thinking about moving on to Buffalo. We look at the challenge right in front of us.”
Their latest measuring-stick victory came against the offensively potent Lightning, who tied an NHL record with 62 wins last season before being swept out of the first round of the playoffs and were coming off a seven-goal effort in an overtime win over the Devils.
But the Islanders limited the Lightning’s dangerous chances, got a dominant performance from their top line and received another strong outing from goalie Thomas Greiss in earning their eighth straight victory on Friday night. They broke open a one-goal game with three third-period goals and beat Tampa Bay, 5-2, at NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum.
“It’s just hard work, good structure, good coaching,” Greiss said. “Everybody is buying in. There’s no individual superstars.”
The Islanders will conclude their third back-to-back set of the season on Saturday night at Buffalo and can equal their nine-game winning streak from Dec. 31, 1989 to Jan. 19, 1990.
Greiss made 33 saves for the Islanders (9-3-0) as he won his fourth straight start. Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 22 shots for the Lightning (6-5-2), who were without top defenseman Victor Hedman.
“We know what kind of team we have in here,” said center Mathew Barzal, who opened the scoring at 4:58 of the second period by going hard to the net and got the puck back to right wing Josh Bailey for a 3-1 lead at 12:41 of the third period. “We’ve got a lot of competitors, so when we’ve got a game like tonight, playing against one of the top teams, we come to play. That’s what we did tonight.”
Anders Lee, the third member of Barzal’s line, snaked in a sharp-angle backhander to make it 4-1 at 14:27 as the top trio totaled seven points.
Former Ranger Ryan McDonagh made it 4-2 at 18:03 of the third period with Vasilevskiy off for an extra skater. Derick Brassard concluded the scoring with an empty-netter with 35.4 seconds to go.
“They’ve got a great team, no question about it,” Bailey said. “I don’t think we were looking at it necessarily as a measuring stick. It’s just another tough opponent we knew we were going to have to have our best against and we were pretty close to that. We did a lot of things well.”
The Islanders killed off all three of the Lightning’s power plays, with Greiss making three saves and center Casey Cizikas blocking two shots in the third period with the Islanders still clinging to a one-goal lead.
The Lightning tied the score at 1-1 at 7:49 of the second period as Yanni Gourde beat Greiss past his glove with a backhander four seconds after their second power play expired.
Defenseman Ryan Pulock gave the Islanders a 2-1 lead at 11:33 of the second period with a blast from the right point through traffic. It was Pulock’s second straight game with a goal and the fourth straight game in which an Islanders defenseman has scored at least once. The Islanders have gotten at least one point from a defenseman in all 12 games.
“I thought we were playing north, playing quick,” Trotz said. “We knew we were against a real good team. I just thought we managed everything well. The penalty kill was really good, they couldn’t get momentum off of that. I think we frustrated them by playing a 200-foot game. We made them go through us.”