Mathew Barzal scored twice as the Islanders snatched a 3-1 win over the Winnipeg Jets at the Bell MTS Place on Oct. 17 - the team's third-straight win. Josh Bailey capped off a two-point night with an empty-netter, while Isles goaltender Semyon Varlamov made 32 saves.
The Islanders opened up their two-game road trip against the high-flying Jets who were seeking redemption after dropping a 4-1 decision to the Isles on Oct. 6. Instead of the Jets getting even, the Islanders improved to 9-1-1 in Manitoba since the Jets returned to Winnipeg and completed the second season sweep in four years.
For the third-straight game the Islanders allowed a goal first as the Jets dominated the first period, outshooting the Isles 16-5. Winnipeg's sole goal came from Nikolaj Ehlers on the power play, marking the fourth-straight game in which the Jets have converted on the man-advantage. Down 1-0, the Islanders rebounded in the second period, as Barzal netted a pair of goals to give the Isles a 2-1 lead.
"It was a great second period, it won us the game," Barzal said. "In the third period, we locked it down…We've rallied the last two games. We've just got to keep this going. The chemistry is coming along, the power play is coming as well, the pieces are coming together."
Video: Barzal, Varlamov lead Islanders past Jets
BARZAL BREAKS THROUGH:
While Mathew Barzal scored his first goal against St. Louis on Oct. 14, the prolific playmaker was unsatisfied with not striking twine sooner, as he went scoreless through the first six games of the season. Even his first goal of the season was an intended pass that was fortunately deflected by a Blues player and into the net.
That was not the case Thursday, as Barzal netted a pair of goal-scorer's goals.
Barzal netted his first of the night from the left faceoff circle on the power play, converting off a beautiful pass snapped across the slot from Josh Bailey. Barzal sniped the one-timer near-side to put the Islanders on board.
Video: NYI@WPG: Barzal blasts one-timer on power play
In the second period, after combatting the relentless pressure from the feisty Jets, Barzal caught a stick up high from Adam Lowry. The play received no call from the referees, but sparked life in Barzal. On his next shift, Barzal and linemate Anders Lee skated in on an odd-man rush and Barzal picked his spot, snapping a puck far side past Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck for his second goal of the night.
"I'm just trying to shoot a little more," Barzal said. "On that [power play goal] Bails makes a great pass to me across ice and that's got to be a shot. I was fortunate to score. The pass by Bails had so much deception there. He fed me right across. It was an easy one for me. The next one Johnny Boychuk makes a great play out of the air to turn that puck back the other way. I ended up finding a hole, it was a great drive [to the net] by Leo."
In Barza's three-year NHL career, he's scored six goals against the Jets - the most of any team he's played. The 22-year-old center has been a catalyst in the Islanders offense and has six points (3G, 3A) in seven games this season - tied with Bailey for the team lead.
Video: NYI@WPG: Barzal buries wrist shot on 2-on-1
POWER PLAY PICKING UP:
The Isles power play found the back of the net for the fourth time this season as Barzal scored his first goal of the night 16 seconds into a Dmitry Kulikov tripping minor.
After eliminating the distinction between PP1 and PP2 and utilizing the insight of assistant coach Jim Hillier, who ran Toronto's power play last season, the Isles are trending in the right direction with their special teams. Barzal potted his first goal of the night alongside the power play unit consisting of Devon Toews, Josh Bailey, Brock Nelson and Anthony Beauvillier.
The power-play goal came on the Isles only opportunity, improving them to 4-for-12 on the season. While they are converting at 30% - sixth in the league - their 12 opportunities rank 29th.
"We'd like to get a few more power plays," Bailey said. "We've got to find a way to draw more penalties. We've had some good work in practice, and it's paid off in games for sure with a couple of big goals."
Video: NYI@WPG: Varlamov drops down to rob Scheifele
VARLAMOV SHINES IN SECOND WIN:
Semyon Varlamov stopped 32 of 33 shots on Thursday and bailed out the Islanders a number of times throughout the duration of the game.
"You've got to give credit to Varly for keeping us in the game and giving us a chance to get going and to get back into it," Bailey said. "We were slow out of the gates and we really relied on him early to keep us in the game. He made some tough saves and some timely saves."
Between the Islanders slow start, including being outshot 16-5, relinquishing a handful of odd-man rushes and committing careless turnovers, Varlamov was a wall when the Isles needed him most. In the first period alone, the Jets could have cushioned their lead, but couldn't beat Varlamov who flashed leather on Grade A chances from Mark Scheifele, Ehlers and Ville Heinola.
NELSON PIVOT-AL IN WIN:
While Brock Nelson didn't make his way on the scoresheet, he was pivotal in the Isles pulling out the victory. Nelson took 54% of the Islanders draws (15-for-34) and came out with big wins down the stretch in the third period, as the Isles shielded their one-goal lead. Nelson won a key draw in the final thirty-seconds that allowed for Bailey to score on the empty net. Nelson logged the highest amount of time on ice among forwards with 20:53.
"He was solid there at the end," Trotz said of Nelson. "We've put a lot of weight on Brock. Usually Casey [Cizikas] is there to share a little bit of that responsibility. Brock has done a really good job of stepping up in that role."
The Islanders wrap-up their first multi-game road trip of the season at Columbus on Oct. 19.
Video: NYI 3 vs WPG 1 : Barry Trotz
Video: NYI 3 vs WPG 1 : Mathew Barzal
Video: NYI 3 vs WPG 1 : Semyon Varlamov
Video: NYI 3 vs WPG 1 : Josh Bailey