The Islanders, for the most part, have not made a habit of trailing in games. Yet when they’ve found themselves playing from behind, they’ve proved adept at overcoming those deficits, as they did on Saturday afternoon.
Defenseman Ryan Pulock’s second goal gave the Islanders a 4-3 overtime win over the Avalanche before a crowd of 14,216 at Barclays Center. Colorado scored the first two goals of the game, but the last five times the Islanders have fallen behind 2-0, they have come back to win.
“Getting down early like that, it’s never easy,” Casey Cizikas said. “We’ve shown it all year. There’s no quit in this group. We just keep rolling.”
The Islanders’ one-goal deficit after the first period marked the first time since Jan. 8 that they had trailed at a break. They had led or been tied going into 24 straight intermissions. It was the third straight game in which they allowed the first goal.
“We’ve been able to just not get away from our game, up or down,” coach Barry Trotz said. “If you just stay with our game, it allows you to get back in the game, or for someone not to pull away.
“I think we’re learning to just play Islander hockey.”
Pulock’s one-timer off Cizikas’ feed and Brock Nelson’s strong stickhandling work won it at 2:23 of the three-on-three overtime.
“We kind of dug ourselves a hole to start,” Pulock said. “We didn’t go into a shell. We just kept playing and found a way to get it done.”
The Metropolitan Division-leading Islanders (32-16-6), who got 25 saves from Robin Lehner and a game-saving blocked shot from Matt Martin, have won three of four and are 8-1-2 since Jan. 13.
Semyon Varlamov made 37 saves for the Avalanche (22-22-10).
Pulock’s four-on-three power-play goal at 13:57 of the third period put the Islanders ahead 3-2, but J.T. Compher banked in a backhander off defenseman Devon Toews’ skate to tie it at 3-3 with 2:45 left in regulation.
Jordan Eberle scored a crucial goal at 18:13 of the second period to bring the Islanders within 2-1, stuffing in the rebound of Anders Lee’s shot from the slot.
The Islanders’ top line of Lee, Eberle and Nelson, which had scored only one five-on-five goal in the previous seven games, totaled 11 shots. Eberle notched his first five-on-five goal in nine games.
“It makes a huge difference,” Cizikas said. “You see the momentum we gained after that goal, the way we finished the period and it led into the third. We were relentless, line after line. That’s just a big goal.”
“You feel like you’re playing OK and creating chances but the puck is not going in,” Eberle added. “You get frustrated. Breaking through at the end of the second was big there.”
Josh Bailey’s backhander at the crease tied the score at 2 at 8:03 of the third period, but it wouldn’t have been the equalizer if not for Martin’s diving blocked shot on Nathan MacKinnon in the left circle at 6:38 of the third period.
Lehner had ventured out to the right boards to clear the puck off an awkward line shift with Cizikas going off and Nelson coming on the ice. But the goalie got caught too far out of his crease as the Avalanche attacked.
“I saw we had guys back,” Cizikas said. “I was changing when I saw get turned over. I was kind of upset at myself to put Nellie in that spot going out there. But Marty made a heck of a play coming back and sacrificing himself and stopping a goal.”
Right where they want them
The Islanders set a franchise record with their fifth straight win after falling behind 2-0.
Dec. 1 vs. Blue Jackets, 3-2
Dec. 8 at Red Wings, 3-2
Dec. 28 vs. Senators, 6-3
Jan. 5 at Blues, 4-3
Feb. 9 vs. Avalanche, 4-3 (OT)