Over the past week, the Islanders fell to the San Jose Sharks 2-1 in overtime, were shutout 3-0 by the Anaheim Ducks and were blanked 4-1 by the Los Angeles Kings. On the California road trip, the Islanders never found their legs or had any puck luck.
For the first time in a long time, the team looked human. The group no longer seemed immune to losing. And, now that there 17-game point streak ended, there was no saying how long the Islanders three-game losing skid could last. So after these three straight losses, the Islanders needed a big win Saturday night to get back to their winning ways.
And that is exactly what they did.
The Islanders not only won but shutout their division rivals, the Columbus Blue jackets. The game was a must-win. If the Islanders ended up losing, it would be their fourth straight loss, and the team would be headed toward dangerous territory.
However, the Islanders did not go down that course.
They found a way to win.
Anders Lee got the Islanders on the board early, not even two minutes into the game, thanks to a beautiful tic-tac-toe play between Mathew Barzal and Josh Bailey.
The Islanders had more opportunities, but rookie goaltender Elvis Merzļikins stood tall.
With around four minutes remaining in the second defenseman, Adam Pelech flipped up a puck to a breaking Mat Barzal. Barzal, thanks to his speed, was able to beat multiple Blue jacket players for the puck and go in on a breakaway and score.
The Blue Jackets pushed back, but the Islanders would not budge. The team beat the Blue Jackets 2-0 and improved to 17-5-2 on the season. They remain seven points behind Washington for first but have four games in hand.
Despite getting outshot by the Blue Jackets, having no power-play opportunities and more giveaways, the Islanders found a way to win. And, that has been a major theme for the Islanders this season.
Despite going down in the game early and everything else that can go wrong, the Islanders have been getting the job done. Although it is still extremely early in the season, if the Islanders can keep finding ways to win, they can be a real threat come playoff time.
And, possibly even be a real contender for the Stanley Cup.