Isles keep ‘digging’ despite distractions
Top Capitals to Extend Season-High Points Streak to Seven Games
With reports swirling that they might be moving out of the Barclays Center, the New York Islanders have decided to hunker down and continue digging out of the first-half hole that left them on the outside looking in at the Eastern Conference playoff race.
Thomas Greiss made 28 saves and Ryan Strome scored the go-ahead goal in the third period Tuesday night as the resilient Islanders topped Alex Ovechkin and the Metropolitan Division-leading Washington Capitals in front of 11,240 fans at Downtown’s home for NHL hockey.
Alan Quine and Johnny Boychuk added goals for New York (22-17-9), which concluded a six-game homestand by extending its season-high points streak to seven (6-0-1).
The Isles also moved within three points of Philadelphia for the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference, giving themselves a legitimate shot at returning to the playoffs in their second year in our fair borough despite languishing at the bottom of the conference standings for most of the first half of the season.
“We’re digging ourselves out,” interim Isles head coach Doug Weight said after the team improved to 5-0-1 under his watch.
“We said we were entering relevance a week or 10 days ago, and I think we’re in the conversation now.”
The conversation prior to the game continued to revolve around Monday’s Bloomberg News report that the Isles and Barclays Center were in the midst of a divorce, with the team rumored to be headed out of Brooklyn, possibly as soon as 2018.
But team captain John Tavares, who picked up an assist on Boychuk’s empty-net tally with 1:08 remaining, refused to take the bait when asked how, or even if, the potential for yet another franchise relocation was affecting the resurgent Isles.
“They’re reports,” Tavares said. “I haven’t heard anything set in stone. Obviously, whatever happens will happen.
“I’ve got enough to worry about just trying to focus on playing and making the playoffs. I think all that stuff will take care of itself.”
Greiss, inked to a new three-year contract on Monday, certainly took care of business between the pipes.
After surrendering the game’s opening tally on Evgeny Kuznetzov’s 10th goal of the year in the opening period, the 31-year-old German netminder kept the Caps scoreless until Ovechkin beat him with just 47 ticks left on the clock.
Having sat behind former primary goaltender Jaroslav Halak for the first few months of the campaign, Greiss doesn’t have to look over his shoulder or anyone else’s during what promises to be a compelling stretch run toward the playoffs.
“He’s been a real backbone for us,” Tavares said of Greiss, who improved to 9-2-3 in his last 14 starts and is still the only Isles goaltender to win a postseason series since 1993.
“He was tremendous for us in our series win [over Florida in the first round of the playoffs] last year,” Tavares added. “He’s really been consistent and given us a chance to win.”
Quine delivered Wednesday’s equalizer on the power play at 2:41 of the second period before the Isles took the lead for good on some deft puck movement at 6:31 of the third.
Rookie Anthony Beauvillier dug the puck out from behind the net, sending it to Brock Nelson, who delivered a short, cross-ice feed to Strome for the go-ahead score past Washington goalie Philipp Grubauer.
From there, the Isles rode their hot goalie and 16 blocked shots to yet another hope-inspiring win.
“We have a long way to go,” Weight admitted, pointing out that the Isles still have three teams to jump over for that coveted playoff spot.
“But the guys believe and with each win, our confidence in each other, the way we’re playing, we expect to win before the puck is dropped.”
Isle Have Another: At 7-1-1 in their last nine games overall, the Isles now have five teams behind them in the East after holding down the bottom spot for the better part of three months. They have 34 regular-season games remaining, including Friday night’s visit to Detroit … Tavares has 14 points (eight goals, six assists) in his last nine games … Casey Cizikas’ assist on Boychuk’s empty-net goal was the 100th point of his NHL career … The Isles clinched the regular season series against the Caps, three games to two, with Wednesday’s win … After visiting Detroit, the Isles will host Carolina here on Saturday and Toronto next Monday.
Leave a Comment
Leave a Comment