Isles look to make history in Brooklyn Thursday
Can extend franchise-record points streak to 16 vs. Pens at Barclays
Having already tied the Stanley Cup-winning 1981-82 team for the longest points streak in franchise history, the New York Islanders can set a new standard for extended excellence Thursday night at Downtown’s Barclays Center against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Just don’t tell them that.
“The funny thing is, the only thing is, we haven’t even been talking about it,” Isles head coach Barry Trotz revealed shortly after his team rallied from two goals down in the third period to pull out a 5-4 overtime victory over Pittsburgh in front of 18,411 fans at PPG Paints Arena Tuesday night.
Brock Nelson’s second goal of the game 2:55 into the extra session helped the Isles match the 15-game winning/points streak New York put together 37 years ago on its way to a third straight NHL title.
This current squad has gone 14-0-1 during its magical run, which began after a 5-2 loss in Carolina on Oct. 11.
The Isles were 1-3 then and are now 15-3-1 and standing five points behind Washington for the top spot in the Metropolitan Division with four games in hand.
New York’s lone defeat during the points streak came in a 4-3 OT setback at Barclays to the Penguins on Nov. 7.
The Isles, who swept Pittsburgh out of the playoffs last spring in the opening round of the playoffs, got a measure of revenge for that defeat on Tuesday.
Trailing 4-2 with with under five minutes remaining in regulation, Josh Bailey and Ryan Pulock tallied to tie it before Nelson, who had helped to forge a 2-2 tie early in the second period, settled matters with his sixth goal of the year off an assist from Anthony Beauvillier.
The Isles, who also rallied from three goals down late in Philadelphia on Saturday to pull out a 4-3 win, became the first team in NHL history to win consecutive games when trailing by at least two with less than seven minutes remaining, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
“It was kind of the same against Philly,” Nelson said. “We just had the belief that we could get it done and take care of business.”
But none of the historic feats, last-second comebacks nor the streak itself are matters of discussion in the Isles’ locker room.
“Honestly, our team, we wouldn’t even know,” Trotz noted.
“Our team would have no clue if we won 10 in a row, or five in a row, we would just know we haven’t lost in a while. It hasn’t been our mentality. The mentality has been just looking at the next game.”
That would be Thursday’s home-and-home rematch with the Pens, who will be facing this red-hot squad for the third time in two weeks.
“It’s same game like we played in Brooklyn,” Penguins center Evgeni Malkin said of Pittsburgh’s previous visit to our fair borough.
“They lead 3-0 and we won in OT. It’s same game exactly. We have to understand we can’t do mistakes like the last 10 minutes, and 6-on-5. It’s hard to say, but we played a good game I think except the last 10 minutes.”
Beauvillier also scored a goal and Semyon Varlamov made 27 saves for New York, which has emerged victorious three times in overtime and twice via shootout during this ongoing streak.
“It’s fun when you’re winning games,” Nelson said. “So right now, we’re showing up, working hard and believing in each other. Off that, you can build confidence in a game.”
“Lots of character, lots of leadership in this room,” Beauvillier added. “We don’t want to keep going down every game. Obviously, we want to play with the lead, but one of those games where those points are going to count at the end of the year.”
They are already counting for plenty right now, and will put this team all alone atop the Isles’ record books if they can figure out a way to pick up at least one points against the Pens on Thursday night.
“There’s a lot of pride in this room,” said Derick Brassard, who picked up a pair of assists in Tuesday’s win.
“There’s a lot of character in this room now and what we’re doing is something special. I’ve never lived that in anywhere in any league. Hopefully, we can keep it going in that direction.”
Isle Have Another: A career Islander, Casey Cizikas skated in his 500th game with New York on Tuesday and Nelson will do the same when he laces up his skates against Pittsburgh in Brooklyn on Thursday. “How quick things go by,” Cizikas said of the milestone. “I’m excited about it, I’m proud of it and it seems like the years get quicker and quicker. But I’m going to try to take it in, do whatever I can to get ready for it and just try to play hockey.” Nelson added of his upcoming achievement, “Pretty cool. When you first come into the league you’re just trying to make the lineup and go game by game and then looking back on 500, it’s a lot of hockey. I remember hitting one. I think I was in Minnesota for my 100th game. It’s pretty cool. Just trying to take it day by day and hopefully get a few more games.”
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