There was relief all around the Islanders’ dressing room.
In one corner, Andrew Ladd and Jason Chimera finally could exhale after scoring their first goals as Islanders in their 13th games with the club.
And everywhere else, it was a breath of fresh air to be the team to break a tie in the third period and finish strongly.
Cal Clutterbuck’s backhand past Canucks goaltender Ryan Miller broke a tie with 10:49 to go and Ladd’s first goal 1:39 later sealed a much-needed 4-2 Islanders win.
“People don’t ask how it happened for you at the end. We just have to start getting two points every time we’re in position to do that,” Thomas Hickey said. “That’s what good teams do. That’s what playoff teams do.”
The Islanders’ 5-6-2 record does not reflect the way they feel about their game. They finished a stretch of 10 home games out of 11 total by going 5-3-2 at Barclays Center, with Monday night’s win coming against a hapless Vancouver squad that is 0-8-1 in its last nine after winning the first four of the season.
But for a team that has expectations for itself, the Islanders can’t take any solace in lost points. The Lightning drubbed them, 6-1, a week ago and the Islanders followed with shootout losses to the Flyers and Oilers after leading in both games. Despite getting only 12 points in 13 games, the Islanders have held a lead or been tied in the third period in all but two games this season.
“We’ve had some pretty good trust in the way we’ve played,” said Clutterbuck, who was elevated to John Tavares’ right side on Saturday night and has points in two straight after needing 15 stitches inside his upper lip to close a horrific gash suffered in Thursday night’s game. “It’s just about sticking with the plan and not worrying about the result. Worrying about results gets you scored on in the final few minutes of a game.”
Daniel Sedin picked Shane Prince’s pocket and beat Jaroslav Halak 4:22 into the game to put the Islanders behind, but Chimera jammed home a nicely batted puck from Anders Lee to tie it at 9:42.
The Islanders took the lead at 7:38 of the second on Nikolay Kulemin’s first goal of the season but gave that edge back on Markus Granlund’s power-play goal, the 10th man-advantage score the Islanders have allowed in the last seven games.
So for the fifth time in the last seven games, the Isles were tied entering the third. They were 0-2-2 in the other four. But Clutterbuck was in the right spot to collect the rebound of Johnny Boychuk’s shot and put them in front. Ladd then blasted a one-timer from the point to get that crucial two-goal edge as well as a smile on the ice.
“It’s big for Jason and me, getting that good feeling that you can put a puck on net and it goes in,” Ladd said. “We got two points. We can still shore up some areas, but it’s what we needed.”
Nelson injures leg. The third period did not go entirely smoothly for the Islanders. Brock Nelson had to leave the game when his leg was struck by a stick. He returned to the ice for one shift later in the period before going back to the dressing room. His injury will be re-evaluated today.