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3 Takeaways: Islanders Resume Schedule with 3-2 Win over Devils

Mathew Barzal breaks 2-2 tie with 4:53 to play, Islanders winning streak reaches three games

by Cory Wright @WrightsWay / NewYorkIslanders.com

Even after 11 days off, the New York Islanders winning streak is still on. 

Playing for the first time since Jan. 1, the Islanders skated to their third-straight victory after scoring a 3-2 win over the New Jersey Devils at UBS Arena. 

Mathew Barzal broke a 2-2 deadlock with 4:53 to play, while Josh Bailey (1G, 1A) and newly-minted all-star Adam Pelech scored for the Islanders and Ilya Sorokin stopped 30 of 32 in the win. Yegor Sharangovich and Nathan Bastian scored for the Devils, while Jon Gillies stopped 22 of 25 in the loss.

"We put a lot of emphasis on this one, we wanted to come out ready," Bailey said. "It was just trying to find a result. It was great to get the win and we'll start getting ready for Saturday."

Video: Barzal nets game winner in the 3rd period

ISLES COME OUT OF BREAK WITH A WIN:

The New York Islanders were heating up before they went on their recent break, but kept that momentum coming out of it, winning their third-straight and improving to 5-0-1 in their last six games at home. 

That was a point of "emphasis" as Bailey put it, looking to come out of the layoff with a purpose. Rest was just as much of an opponent as the Devils. 

"We had the long layoff and we tried to simulate the game situations as much as possible as we could in practice," Associate Coach Lane Lambert said. "Our guys battled and we found a way to win." 

The implications were big, as the Islanders (28 points, 29 games played) closed the gap with the Devils (33 points, 37 games played), the first team they need to leapfrog. Further up the chain, the Islanders needed to keep pace with the Boston Bruins (44 points, 34 games), who occupy the second Wild Card and scored a 3-2 win over the Philadelphia Flyers and the Columbus Blue Jackets (35 points, 35 games), who staged a 6-0 stunner over the division-leading Carolina Hurricanes. 

"Everyone knows where we are at in the standings," Barzal said. "We have a lot of games in hand, so we have to start winning hockey games. Tonight was great, after 12 days… It was a good team win."

New Jersey also hadn't played since Saturday, so both teams had some jump after a layoff, playing fast and loose in a 1-1 first period that saw 14 shots apiece. 

The Devils opened the scoring on Sharangovich's eighth of the season, beating Sorokin with a mid-range wrister that snuck between the goalie's body and blocker. 

The Islanders got it back before the end of the penalty-filled period, as Bailey potted a power-play goal for his first tally since Oct. 24. The Islanders now have 10 power-play goals in their last 11 games and have scored on the man advantage in five straight. 

The frantic pace levelled off in the second period, with the teams combining for a total of 11 shots (6-5 Devils). 

Pelech, who was named to his first All-Star Game ahead of puck drop, put the Islanders ahead with his first goal of the season. The defenseman put a wrister in play from the point, which caromed off Graves, hit the ice and bounced over Gillies' glove at 9:22. In addition to being named an all-star on Thursday, Pelech was named the game's first star. 

The defenseman's goal wouldn't be enough to hold up as the game-winner, as the Devils tied the score on a third period power play, as Nathan Bastian deflected a Ty Smith point shot past Sorokin at 10:25.

That just set the stage for Barzal, who roofed the winner past Gillies during a four-on-four stretch with 4:53 to play. After that, the Islanders clamped down, keeping the Devils from crossing center after initially pulling Gillies and then keeping them on the perimeter for a major of the final 90 seconds. 

"It's been a challenging first 20-something games of the season for us as a group," Parise said. "Now we're close to getting a full lineup back… we're playing some good hockey, we're finding different ways to win, special teams are coming together, we're getting back to that stingy hockey that we're comfortable playing. We have a lot of ground to make up, but we start with tonight, it's a big win, a team we have to catch."

Video: NJD@NYI: Barzal fires home a shot from the slot

BARZAL COMES THROUGH:

Mat Barzal came through in a big moment for the Islanders on Thursday night. 

Tied 2-2 with under five minutes to play, Barzal broke a divisional deadlock snapping home his seventh goal of the season, roofing a feed from Bailey with some extra ice thanks to some four-on-four hockey. 

Barzal let out a roar after scoring the eventual game-winner, alleviating some pent-up energy after the long layoff. 

"We were off for 12 days, so just finding some excitement in the game," Barzal said. "The first 53 minutes of the game for me wasn't my best, some chances, but nothing crazy, but a great pass by Bails, so just let all of that emotion out, 12 days of emotion out and it felt good."

In the process, Barzal hit the scoresheet for the ninth time in his last nine games, racking up 14 points (3G, 11A) over that span. It's not officially credited as a point streak because the center missed three games in COVID-19 protocol, but the de facto run is up there with some of Barzal's best. (The center had an official - and career-high - nine-game point streak from Jan. 26 to Feb. 15, 2021.) 

Barzal leads the Islanders with 22 points this season (7G, 15A). 

Video: NJD@NYI: Bailey puts home a rebound in tight for PPG

PARISE PAYS PRICE ON PAIR OF ISLES GOALS:

Zach Parise played a key role in Thursday's win, picking up a pair of assists on Bailey's and Pelech's goals. 

Parise paid the price on both occasions, getting to the front of the net and creating some chaos. The 37-year-old was in the middle of a couple of PK Subban and Ryan Graves cross-checks, allowing Josh Bailey to get free to pot a power-play goal at the top of the crease. Parise was also providing the screen in front of the net on Pelech's 2-1 goal, tangling up with Yegor Sharangovich. 

The two-assist night marked Parise's third points in the past four games and second multi-point game of the season. He finished the game with 15:03 TOI, one hit and one block. 

NEXT GAME:

The Islanders won't have to wait long for the next one, as they take on the Washington Capitals on Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m. 

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