ST. PAUL, Minn. — Mathew Barzal knows there have been times when he’s tried to do too much on his own. The 21-year-old center believes he’s past that.
And as the Islanders struggled to possess the puck Sunday, both five-on-five and on six penalty kills after some questionable calls, Barzal’s selfless play led to two crucial goals in a 3-2 overtime win over the Wild at Xcel Energy Center.
The win lifted the Islanders into a first-place tie with the Capitals in the Metropolitan Division.
“For a little bit of a stretch there, I tried putting that onus on myself a little bit too much,” said Barzal, who has gone 14 games without a goal. “That’s more me doing it to myself, being competitive and wanting to be that guy. The last 10 games, maybe I just realized that this is a 20-man group. I don’t have to go out and get two or three goals. I don’t have to do everything when I’m on the ice.”
Barzal set up Brock Nelson’s winner in the slot 1:04 into overtime. He also stripped Jordan Greenway of the puck in the Wild’s zone midway through the first period and fed Jordan Eberle cutting to the right post. Eberle beat Alex Stalock through his pads for his first goal in 18 games to make it 1-0.
The Islanders matched the Capitals at 42-23-7 for 91 points and will end the regular season at Washington on April 6. They are three points ahead of the third-place Penguins (39-24-10), who lost in overtime to the visiting Flyers, 2-1, on Sunday night.
Tied for first with 10 games remaining? “I don’t think there were many people who thought that would be the case,” coach Barry Trotz said.
He was referring to his team, minus John Tavares, doing this well as the Isles seek their first playoff berth since 2016. But he could have been talking about getting a win on Sunday after the Islanders were outshot 34-20 by the Wild (34-30-9) and outchanced 69-34.
The Islanders blocked 22 shots, and too much time on the penalty kill — including two penalties in the first 6:55 of the first period — wore the team down.
“It’s a little frustrating for everyone when we’re struggling to get out of our zone,” rookie defenseman Devon Toews said. “Today was a grind.”
Trotz elected to stick with Thomas Greiss (32 saves) for his fourth straight start after he made 20 saves on Saturday. It marked only the second time Trotz has started a goalie in back-to-back games and the first since Greiss played two in a row on Nov. 23-24.
The Wild twice tied the game with power-play goals. Zach Parise made it 1-1 with a between-the-legs shot in front of the crease at 11:11 of the second period after Greiss was called for slashing Eric Staal coming around his net. Jared Spurgeon tied it 2-2 at 7:15 of the third period with Nelson off for holding.
“You’re not always going to agree with the calls,” Trotz said. “I thought they should have had a couple on us. Clutter [Cal Clutterbuck] got elbowed a few times. There’s a reason his helmet is coming off every shift. It’s not because it’s too loose.”
Anders Lee, who scored for the fourth straight game, gave the Islanders a 2-1 lead at 16:12 of the second period on the man advantage as he tipped Toews’ shot from the blue line. The Islanders had been 0-for-25 on the power play over 12 games before that goal.
“I don’t think any of us really know if there’s a streak or not of us not scoring,” Toews said. “It’s just about us creating momentum. I feel like we’ve been doing that the last few games.”