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Jean-Gabriel Pageau's hot streak has been key to Islanders' resurgence

Islanders forward Jean-Gabriel Pageau (44) celebrates his goal

Islanders forward Jean-Gabriel Pageau (44) celebrates his goal during the first period against the Buffalo Sabres, Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021, in Buffalo. Credit: AP/Jeffrey T. Barnes

Jean-Gabriel Pageau is on a goal streak. The Islanders are on a winning streak.

That’s not coincidental.

The third-line center’s relentless skating and physical presence despite his 5-10, 180-pound frame, plus his work on both the power play and penalty kill, deepens the Islanders’ lineup. Coach Barry Trotz craves four-line balance and Pageau’s recent scoring has certainly helped achieve that.

"Sometimes, it’s just about confidence," Pageau said. "To get that confidence back, you need a full team to do that. That’s what we’re doing now. We come out as a team. We’re units of five in every zone and I think we all trust each other."

The Islanders, who did not practice on Wednesday, continue their four-game road trip when they open a two-game series in Pittsburgh on Thursday night after sweeping two games in Buffalo. They have won three straight and are on an eight-game point streak (5-0-3).

Pageau extended his goal streak to four games — with five goals in that span — in Tuesday night’s 3-0 win over the Sabres. He missed out on a two-goal performance when Carter Hutton stopped his shorthanded breakaway in the third period.

Pageau also tied a team record previously set by seven others, the last being Matt Moulson from Nov. 26-Dec. 3, 2011, of scoring first-period goals in four straight games.

"I’m just trying to work as hard as I can to get my game better," Pageau said. "Get a lot more skating in my game and trying to be a pain in the [butt] to play against."

Pageau has six goals and four assists in 15 games after notching eight goals with three assists in the Islanders’ 22 postseason games in their run to the first berth in the Eastern Conference finals since 1993.

Islanders president and general manager Lou Lamoriello acquired Pageau, who was born in Ottawa, from his hometown Senators at last season’s trade deadline and promptly signed him to a six-year, $30 million extension. Lamoriello coveted Pageau for the depth he could bring behind top-six centers Mathew Barzal and Brock Nelson as well as his non-stop, two-way play.

Pageau played with a rotating set of wings through the first nine games before Trotz put Oliver Wahlstrom and Leo Komarov on Pageau’s line for a successful, five-game stretch before Anthony Beauvillier was activated off injured reserve and put in Komarov’s spot on Tuesday.

The Islanders’ eight-game point streak is their longest since a franchise-record 17-game streak (15-0-2) early last season.

But teams are only playing within their division in this shortened, 56-game season.

"This is a little different because of the quality of teams you’re playing in our division," Trotz said. "And you’re playing back-to-back. It’s really hard to win both games of a back-to-back. Usually, teams find ways to split."

This two-game series is part of the Islanders and Penguins playing six times this month. The stretch started with the Islanders winning, 4-3, at Nassau Coliseum on Feb. 6 then losing a 4-3 shootout to the visiting Penguins five days later.

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