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Isles streaking their way back to Brooklyn

Carry NHL season-high seven-game run into Friday's tilt vs. Tampa

October 30, 2019 JT Torenli
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The New York Islanders are less than a week away from this season’s Brooklyn debut at Downtown’s Barclays Center.

But at this point in the campaign, it doesn’t seem to matter when or where they play.

Riding their longest winning streak in nearly three decades, the Long Island/Brooklyn-based franchise will look to make it eight wins in a row Friday night when it hosts the Tampa Bay Lightning at NYCB Live, better known as the renovated Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, N.Y.

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After beginning the campaign with three losses in their first four games, the Isles (8-3-0) have gone on a stunning seven-game winning streak, which has included two overtime triumphs, a shootout victory and the type of offensive balance that was sorely missing from their repertoire a season ago.

New York piled up 103 points and swept Pittsburgh in the opening round of the playoffs before bowing out to Carolina in the Eastern Conference semifinals last year, but that run was mainly on the strength of Head Coach Barry Trotz’s dedication to defense.

Thus far this year, the Isles have shown a penchant for scoring, tallying at least three times in every game during their winning streak, including a season-high goal total in Sunday night’s 5-3 triumph over Philadelphia.

“Over the course of last year and even at the start of this year, we were having trouble scoring goals,” admitted Isles center Mathew Barzal after New York completed its first winning streak of at least seven games in a single season since reeling off nine in a row from Dec. 31, 1989-Jan. 19, 1990.

“The last seven or eight games, we really made a point to bear down on our chances,” Barzal added.

And the scoring has been balanced, as evidenced by five different goal scorers in Sunday’s win at the Coliseum with every Islander player on the ice for at least one of those tallies.

New York scored three times in the first period for the first time this season Sunday, has tallied at least four times in each of its last three contests and improved to a perfect 8-0 this year when scoring at least three goals in a game.

The team’s defense, which ranked first overall in the NHL last season in goals allowed, hasn’t exactly taken a precipitous dip either as it ranks fifth overall with 2.45 goals allowed per contest.

“We’ve been competing for the last couple of weeks, we play for each other, it’s been a lot of fun,” said veteran forward Derick Brassard, who scored for the third time in as many games Sunday. 

“Guys are stepping up, we have good goaltending, everything is clicking right now.”

Semyon Varlamov made 28 saves en route to his third straight victory as the red-hot Islanders completed their longest winning streak in nearly three decades Sunday night in Uniondale, N.Y. AP Photo by Frank Franklin II.

Netminder Semyon Varlamov, signed by General Manager Lou Lamoriello this summer to replace departed Vezina Trophy-finalist Robin Lehner, won his third consecutive game between the pipes on Sunday, yielding three goals on 31 shots to improve to 4-2 on the season.

Team captain Anders Lee began the Isles’ offensive outburst by stuffing home a rebound to even the score at 1-1 after an early Philadelphia goal.

“You always look at your leadership, how are they going to set the tone,” Trotz said of Lee. 

“Anders Lee was a beast today. His goal was a great example of leadership. You don’t have a license to do less, you have a responsibility to do more. He knew it was a big game and he did more.”

Barzal, Brassard, Ross Johnston and Ryan Pulock also tallied for New York, which hasn’t lost since a 5-2 defeat at Carolina on Oct. 11, and has compiled its most points (16) through 11 games in a season since the 2001-02 campaign.

“I think it’s just chemistry at the same time,” Barzal said of the Isles’ hot streak, which they hope will continue entering their first game of the year here in Brooklyn next Tuesday vs. Ottawa.

“It’s just a combination of things, but I’d say mostly it’s just chemistry.” 

Isle Have Another: Lamoriello revealed Sunday that forwards Matt Martin and Tom Kuhnhackl will each be sidelined for four to six weeks with lower-body injuries. That prompted the Isles to recall forward Otto Koivula from AHL Bridgeport on Wednesday. Koivula, selected in the fourth round of the 2016 NHL Draft by New York, has amassed 21 goals and 27 assists in 75 career games at the team’s minor league affiliate. … Veteran defenseman Dennis Seidenberg, who spent the last two of his 15 NHL seasons with the Isles, decided to retire earlier this week but is staying on with the franchise as part of the player development staff. Seidenberg racked up 251 career points and won a Stanley Cup title as a member of the Boston Bruins back in 2011. “After 15 years of living my dream of playing in the NHL, I have decided it is time for me to retire from the game I love,” Seidenberg said in a team-issued statement. “It hasn’t been an easy decision, but I know it is the right one. I want to take this opportunity to thank my coaches, teammates and the organizations I played with over the years.” … After hosting the Lightning on Friday, the Isles will visit Buffalo Saturday night before their Barclays opener here next Tuesday. New York will play a total of 13 games on Brooklyn ice, not including potential playoff contests. 

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