For Doug Weight’s first game as Islanders coach, his players put forth a familiar effort. Their 3-0 win over the Stars at Barclays Center on Thursday night looked an awful lot like Jack Capuano’s last game behind the bench on Monday in Boston.
Thomas Greiss pitched his second straight shutout and John Tavares scored twice as the Islanders finally put together two straight command performances.
The irony, of course, is that general manager Garth Snow fired his longtime coach in Capuano and installed longtime assistant coach Weight between two very similar, effective performances.
“It felt a lot like a repeat,” said Thomas Hickey, who had his first NHL fight with Radek Faksa in the second period and brought the Isles one of their seven power plays. “You can talk about change and obviously there was a big one, but this was very much the same way we played on Monday. And we needed it.”
Greiss, who had blanked the Bruins, 4-0, recorded back-to-back shutouts for the first time in his NHL career. He wasn’t peppered Thursday night, making 23 saves, tying a season low in shots against the Islanders.
Tavares staked the Islanders to a 1-0 lead at 13:31 of the first period with a terrific individual effort and the Islanders spent most of the second period on the power play, which didn’t produce a goal but generated lots of offense and high ice times for the Isles’ offense-minded forwards.
Perhaps a one-goal game with so many chances to grab a bigger lead would have led to a disappointing finish under Capuano earlier this season. But this time the Islanders did not sit back and wait for the crash.
“Those are games when you’re vulnerable,” Weight said. “We had all those chances and we don’t score, you’re waiting for the ball to drop in the third. But it didn’t happen.”
The Islanders needed Greiss to make a few strong stops, but they were stronger on the puck and in their own end than perhaps all season long. Tavares’ deal-sealer, a shorthanded breakaway at 16:54 of the third — his seventh goal in four games and the first shorthanded goal of his career — was a huge relief, but the Islanders possessed the puck and charged around the Stars’ zone much of the night.
“It’s one of our best all-around games this year,” Greiss said. “Maybe [Tuesday’s firing of Capuano] was a little wake-up call for the boys. Everybody chipped in today. It was a great effort.”
Weight said he hasn’t changed much, perhaps tweaking the defensive-zone structure a bit and speaking more directly to struggling players.
“Some guys heard it on the bench and some heard it between periods,” he said. “And they’ve got to react in a good way or they’re going to sit a while.”
Calvin de Haan hit an empty net with four seconds to go as the Islanders moved above .500 in points percentage (18-17-8) for the first time since Dec. 8 and only the second time all season. They will need more of the same to break back into the Eastern Conference playoff hunt.
“Everybody, from 1-20 [players], battled,” Weight said. “Everyone we put over the boards in the third battled. That’s what we need. It was a tough couple days and Jack’s a popular coach. I want some swagger and some confidence from these guys. It was a great win.”
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