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Goalies, special teams guiding Isles to wins

The Isles are getting big saves, power-play goals during winning stretch

by Cory Wright WrightsWay / New York Islanders

Ahead of Friday's 5-4 OT win over the Philadelphia Flyers, Head Coach Doug Weight discussed Thomas Greiss' season to date - and unknowingly predicted how the goalie's night was going to go. 

"Thomas has just found ways to make the big save at the big time," Weight said pre-game. "He's been making that big save that turns games around and it's obviously transferred into wins."

That was Greiss' night to a tee. The Isles goalie allowed four goals through 40 minutes, but clamped down when his team needed some crucial saves against a hungry Flyers team, stopping all 13 shots he faced in the third period and overtime combined. 

"It's kind of what we were talking about," Weight said postgame. "I judge their performance on their effort and how they're playing and talk to the goalie gurus about that. He just battles."

Video: NYI@PHI: Greiss uses the pad to deny Konecny

Greiss' goals-against average (3.34) and save percentage (.903) betray his contribution to the Islanders this season. The German goalie is on a five-game winning streak and is 8-2-2 this season, meaning the Islanders have points in 10 of his 12 games. That includes a 40-save road win in San Jose and wins over St. Louis and Tampa Bay. 

Greiss has left his mark on a game more than a few times this season. In St. Louis, the Isles netminder more or less assisted on a pair of goals as robbed Paul Stastny twice and the Islanders took the puck down on the ensuing rush and scored. On Friday, Greiss came up with a key stop on a Travis Konecny shorthanded breakaway before Jordan Eberle buried a power-play goal at the other end. Greiss was perfect on late Flyers' power plays in each of the past two games, helping the Isles to two straight OT wins.

The standout third in Philadelphia came on the heels of a four-goal second period, including a whacky goal that saw a puck hop over Greiss' stick behind the net, giving way to an easy mark for Sean Couturier. Weight said that goal would have defeated some, but he likes the way his team and unflappable goalie responded. 

"Tommy just competes, competes, competes and I feel like he trusts our team and we trust him," Weight said. 

With Thomas Greiss heeding Weight's call for one of his two goalies to take the ball and run with it, Jaroslav Halak answered with his best performance of the season on Saturday night. 

Halak made 31 saves as the Islanders ground out a 2-1 win over the Ottawa Senators. The Islanders haven't been in too many low-scoring, tight contests this season, but Halak stepped up on a night where his team's upper echelon firepower was held in check. The goalie was good, staying focused in long stretches without seeing action and saved his best for last, stopping 15-of-16 in the third period, including a point-blank stop on Derick Brassard in the final minute. 

Video: NYI@OTT: Halak denies Brassard, Ryan late in 3rd

The win was a confidence booster for the former all-star who was on a personal three-game losing streak and hadn't tasted victory since Oct. 30. 

"At this point I'll take any win," Halak said. "It's a big win for our team on a back-to-back."

Weight said he felt Halak hadn't gotten the same run support as Greiss has and while Halak didn't get a lot of offensive help, he had his team collapsing around the net and clearing pucks on Saturday. John Tavares and Thomas Hickey teamed up to take a sure goal away from Ryan Dzingel at the end of the first period. 

The win improves Halak to 6-5-0 this season, with a 2.96 GAA and a .903 SV%. The season numbers don't stand out for either goalie, but after a 3-0-0 week, Weight, who has repeatedly said he has confidence in both goaltenders, is happy with the state of his goaltending. 

"They're playing better than people think and they are contributing to wins," Weight said.

POWER PLAY STREAKING: 

The Islanders power play is hot once again, lighting the lamp for the sixth straight game in Saturday's 2-1 win over Ottawa 

The Islanders are 7-for-25 over the past six games, converting at a 28 percent clip. Over the past 12 games, the Islanders are 16-for-49 (32.6%) - the best power play since Oct. 27. 

"Both units are moving the puck around really well, playing with a lot of energy," Weight said. "Even when they aren't having good power plays, they are changing momentum for us."

It's a remarkable turnaround for the power play that started the season 2-for-33 with five shorthanded goals against in the first 10 games. The Isles are 10-2-0 when they score at least one with the man advantage.

Video: PHI@NYI: Boychuk rips bar-down one-timer for PPG

"We went back to the basics as far as our breakouts, as far as our speed and work ethic versus the PK," Weight said of the turnaround. "I think we've gotten back to that mindset, we got some swagger. We can be pretty dynamic with ten to twelve players waiting to be put on the ice."

Mathew Barzal, who has eight power-play points, including a power-play goal on Wednesday vs the Flyers, credited some midseason adjustments and time as to why the Isles are scoring with the man advantage. 

"We know where each other are going to be," Barzal said. "We have our set plays. It just makes it easier when everyone is on the same page." 

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