Playoff contention is still a long way off for the Islanders. But they’re finally playing playoff-worthy hockey.
In fact, it wasn’t quite playoff-quality hockey on Sunday night as they were stuck in their sleeve for extended stretches in the third period. But the Islanders still won their third straight game in regulation for the first time this season – only their third three-game winning streak of the season and first since Jan. 17-21 – with a victory from 4-3 over the Ducks at UBS Arena to wrap up a 4-2-0 homestand.
“It wasn’t our best home performance, but we got it done,” coach Barry Trotz said. “That’s the bottom line. I believe in the gods of hockey. And if you work, you usually get rewarded at some point. Maybe it was one of those games that we recover a bit.”
The Islanders (24-24-8), back in the NHL .500 for the first time since Feb. 9, remain 18 points behind the Capitals — whom they face Tuesday night in Washington — for the final wildcard spot in the league. Eastern Conference.
Ilya Sorokin made 39 saves for his fourth victory in his last five starts while Kyle Palmieri scored twice.
“It all starts with Soroky,” said Palmieri, who has scored eight goals in 14 games since returning to the lineup. “He played a great game. Our goalkeepers gave us a chance and it’s nice to give them support on the other side.
“It always feels good to win,” said Josh Bailey, who had assists on both of Palmieri’s goals. “That’s good the way we play. We just want it to continue. It’s just a one-day-at-a-time mentality right now.”
Palmieri’s second goal was a one-timer that made it 4-2 at 17:25 of the second period on a pass from defenseman Scott Mayfield behind the crease.
John Gibson (25 saves) denied Palmieri his third career hat trick – one each for the Ducks and one for the Devils – as he came back with his paddle to stop a big power play chance from the left circle at 6:01 of the third period, leaving Palmieri to exclaim, “You’re kidding me.”
“He was laughing at me,” Palmieri said. “I laughed at myself. But that’s how it is. At least it didn’t come back to bite us.”
The Ducks shot to within 4-3 on Adam Henrique’s goal at 18:16 of the third period with Gibson fired for an extra skater. But the Islanders regrouped on their subsequent shifts and kept the goaltender on the ice out of the ensuing faceoff for nearly a minute.
Gibson had already kept the Ducks (27-25-10) within two heading into the third period by stopping Jean-Gabriel Pageau’s shorthanded breakaway at 7:45. Isac Lundestrom, who deflected the shot from defenseman Hampus Lindholm, had brought the Ducks to 3-2 at 14:23 of the second period.
Mathew Barzal’s new line with Oliver Wahlstrom and Zach Parise scored in his first shift as Parise, after a solid forecheck, reached the crease for a 1-0 lead 2:18 away. the first period. Ducks defenseman Josh Manson drove into the slot to tie the game at 1 at 9:48 of the first period.
But the Islanders stretched it to a two-goal advantage in the final minute of the first period. Palmieri fired a shot to the far post from the left circle with 28.2 seconds left and Anders Lee, with his seventh goal in four games, deflected defender Ryan Pulock’s shot from the right spot to make it 3-1 with 3.3 seconds to go.
“Things just clicked,” Bailey said. “It’s starting to get contagious. It gives you a bit more confidence.”