Goaltender controversy? Not if Thomas Greiss continues to play the way he did on Sunday.
After a Saturday night spent watching Twitter and seeing the agent for two of the Islanders’ three goaltenders publicly complain about the team carrying that many netminders, Greiss went out and stole the show against the young Maple Leafs at Barclays Center.
He made 33 saves, 17 during a tilted second period, and the Islanders got some timely offense in a 5-1 win that snapped a two-game losing streak.
“The last couple games he’s played, he’s been great,” John Tavares said. “It was a sluggish-type game and we gave them a few too many chances. But Greisser was big when we needed him.”
The Islanders had been struggling after allowing late goals in their last three losses, including back-to-back nights against the Canadiens and Penguins last week. But two goals in the first 7:22 on Sunday against Maple Leafs goaltender Jhonas Enroth gave the Isles a cushion they’ve rarely had this season.
Travis Hamonic blasted one in off a Leafs skate 1:01 into the contest, a goal set up by the work of Nikolay Kulemin, who came out flying after missing the previous two games with an upper-body injury.
Kulemin, back with linemates Casey Cizikas and Cal Clutterbuck, helped get a rush started a few minutes later and Cizikas finished it off for his first goal of the season. Ironic that the Islanders’ new “fourth” line thrived on a night when Matt Martin, the former left wing on that line with Cizikas and Clutterbuck, made his return with Toronto to face the Isles.
Coach Jack Capuano shuffled a few other lines on Sunday, but the Kulemin-CC-CC trio is as set in stone as it was when Martin was here.
“You look at the minutes they’ve played, that’s not our fourth line,” Capuano said. “We tried a few things tonight. I know 86, 53 and 15 are pretty good together. That much I know.”
Greiss stood tallest in the second period, turning aside wave after wave of the Maple Leafs’ attack. His best was a full stretch to deny rookie Zach Hyman on a wraparound try when Greiss appeared to be out of position.
Jake Gardiner’s screened point shot beat Greiss on the power play 50 seconds into the third period to cut the Islanders’ lead in half. Instead of caving, they ramped up the pressure and lucked into a big goal when Enroth deflected a high dump-in behind his net and right out front, where Shane Prince gathered it and snapped it home at 5:08.
“It’s a good bounce, obviously, but I’m just trying to skate hard, move my feet and get in position to make some things happen,” said Prince, who scored a similar goal in Pittsburgh on Thursday.
Dennis Seidenberg made a deft pinch down the right-wing boards and sent a feed to Prince, who backhanded a feed to a cutting Brock Nelson for a 4-1 lead at 7:47 of the third. Josh Bailey’s goal in the final minute gave the Isles a strong finish, something they’ve lacked in a few defeats this season.
They’ve also lacked a definitive No. 1 goaltender. With games every other night the next week, Greiss might get his chance to seize the gig.
“I’m feeling good right now. The guys are playing good in front of me,” he said. “They had a couple that just missed the net too, so it’s good to get those when you’re feeling good.”