Former Islander Michael Grabner raced down the middle of the ice, breaking away from Devon Toews and Jordan Eberle and breaking in on the masked man serving as the last line of defense. Islanders goalie Robin Lehner tried to protect the net from the wily Coyote bent on scoring the tying shorthanded goal.
“He’s good at breakaways,” Lehner said. “It happens pretty quick. You don’t really think.”
Lehner extended his left arm and made the third-period save, and the fans at the Coliseum chanted “Leh-ner, Leh-ner.” The one-goal game became a 2-0 victory over Arizona and gave Lehner two wins in two days; he also protected the net with 22 saves in Saturday’s 4-2 victory in Philadelphia. Sunday’s first star finished with 31 saves, good for his career-high fifth shutout.
“I didn’t think he had a lot of work, and he’s missed some time,” Barry Trotz said after the Islanders remained a point behind Metropolitan Division-leading Washington with six games to play. “So I just wanted to give him a little rhythm.”
Lehner indeed looks in rhythm again after missing three games with a head injury, then sitting behind Thomas Greiss for three more, then allowing five goals to Boston on Tuesday in his return to the net. He stopped all 12 shots he faced in 31:41 in relief of Greiss on Thursday in Montreal before playing on consecutive days for the first time this season.
“It was nice to get awarded with a back-to-back,” Lehner said. “You want to give something back to the coaches when they give you the opportunity. I feel good.”
It has been a feel-good first season here for Lehner after he moved on from Buffalo and signed a one-year, $1.5 million deal — a bargain for the Islanders. He has improved on and off the ice.
The 27-year-old Swede showed up third in the NHL in goals-against average (2.23) and fifth in save percentage (.925). He has formed a formidable tandem with Greiss behind a generally tight defensive structure.
Lehner also has spoken openly about having to overcome addiction and mental health issues. So the fan reaction touched him again.
“It’s a personal thing for me, the way they’ve been so supportive since I got here and with everything that I’ve been dealing with,” he said. “Honestly, it means more than they think.”
Trotz may turn back to Greiss on Tuesday night in Columbus, considering he went 3-0 with two shutouts in the first three against the Blue Jackets. But the chant-worthy save on Grabner helped save this day.
“Those are the saves that these guys have made all year,” Eberle said. “They’ve been timely . . . That’s what good teams do. They always have good goaltending, and we definitely have no shortage of that.”