"Hit em first" has been the Islanders' team slogan this season and what a difference scoring first has made this year.
The Isles are a perfect 11-0-0 when breaking the ice this season compared to 6-10-3 when they allow the opening goal. Dating back to last season, the Islanders have won a franchise-record 16 straight wins when winning the race to light the lamp.
They got the first goal early in Monday's 3-1 win over the Washington Capitals, a goal that set the tone for the Islanders and injected some energy into the bench after a taxing road trip. In contrast, the Islanders had allowed the first goal in five straight games before Monday's win, going 1-3-1 in the process. During their late-November surge - where they won seven of eight games - the Isles opened the scoring in six of those seven wins, though they needed a late rally to beat the Philadelphia Flyers in OT on Black Friday.
Video: Halak makes 31 saves in Isles' 3-1 win vs. Caps
It's not that head coach Doug Weight sees a big difference in what his team does when they have a lead, but rather what it forces the Islanders' opponents to do. They open up and the offensively-potent Islanders have been able to take advantage of some wide-open games.
"We can really tilt the ice with our four lines and with some talent spread around as far as speed and ability to make plays," Weight said. "You can really go for the throat. And when you have teams that are trying to catch up, they are going to take chances, they are going to push the pace. If you're in the right spots the puck comes to you and you get opportunities, odd numbers, tired lines."
Weight said his team is confident in their ability to battle back from any deficit, and they have put together some late rallies, but would obviously rather see them playing from ahead than behind.
"The great thing is we always have the belief, whether it's 2-0, 3-1, 3-2, we can come back with any amount of time left," Weight said. "But the last three weeks it's a little disheartening, it's 1-0 more than not against us. For a team like ours, it's big to get the lead."
Johnny Boychuk skated with the Islanders at Tuesday's practice. Weight said the defenseman looked good on the ice, but didn't commit to a return on Wednesday. Boychuk had skated in the team's last two morning skates, but has missed three straight games.