Make it eight!
The New York Islanders won their eighth-straight game on Friday night, beating the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-2 at Nassau Coliseum. The win marked the first time since the 1989-90 season that the Isles had won eight games in a row.
Anders Lee led the way with three points (1G, 2A), while Mathew Barzal, Ryan Pulock, Josh Bailey and Derick Brassard scored for the Islanders. Thomas Greiss made 33 saves in the win. Yanni Gourde and Ryan McDonagh scored for the Lightning, while Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 21 shots in the loss.
Video: Islanders top Lightning for eighth consecutive win
"We've all recognized what our identity is and who we are and guys are playing their roles perfectly here," Lee said of the eight-game run. "We're not trying to do too much, we're playing a pretty simple game, not taking too many risks and if we do, we have great goaltending that's backed us up."
The Islanders have now won eight straight for the fourth time in franchise history - and first in nearly 30 years. The current winning streak ranks third among the longest in team history and a win on Saturday would tie for second. The franchise best is 15 straight games, set during the 1981-82 season.
While the fans at the Coliseum chanted "eight straight!" in the dying seconds of the game, Head Coach Barry Trotz said he and team are more focused on the process than the hullabaloo.
"It means we played pretty well, but we don't really think about stuff like that honestly," Trotz said. "We look at the challenge ahead of us and that's what we're doing. It's onto Buffalo."
Still, the process has been good for the Islanders of late. Friday marked the seventh time in eight games that the Isles allowed two goals or fewer. It was also the fourth straight game the Isles had scored four goals or more, so it's clicking at both ends.
"We just try to find ways to win," Trotz said. "Every game is winnable and guys understand that."
TOP LINE LEADS ISLES OFFENSE:
The Islanders top line of Lee-Barzal-Bailey powered the offense on Friday night.
All three recorded multi-point games, with Barzal and Bailey each potting a goal and an assist. Trotz has increased the responsibility of his top line in wake of the injuries to the Islanders depth and they delivered against the reigning Presidents' Trophy winners.
"We kind of started a little slow, but we have found it lately," Barzal said. "Just chemistry. Barry is putting a little more trust into my game it seems like, on d-zone draws, playing against some of the other team's top lines, which is nice. That's a confidence booster for me. Lee has been a beast the last few games and Bails is one of the smartest players around, so they are making it easy on me."
Tied 0-0 after one, Barzal opened the scoring for the Islanders 4:58 into the second period. Barzal took a pair of laps around the Lightning zone, cutting towards the net and stuffing his own rebound past Vasilevskiy. Barzal extended his point streak to three games (2G, 2A).
Tampa answered shortly after, as Yanni Gourde snuck a puck short side past Greiss at 7:49. The Islanders ultimately took a 2-1 lead into the second intermission, as Pulock blasted a one-timer off Luke Witkowski and past Vasilevskiy at 11:33.
Pulock now has goals in two straight games after going goalless in the opening 10 games this season.
The Lightning did not go away quietly in the third period, outshooting the Isles 9-2 to start the frame. The Islanders stood their ground and pulled away with a pair of goals from Bailey and Lee 1:46 apart. Bailey finished off some pretty passing with a one-timer to make it 3-1 at 12:41 and Lee effectively iced the game with 5:33 to play, throwing a Johnny Boychuk rebound off Vasilevskiy's back from the side of the net.
McDonagh made it 4-2 with 1:57 to play and Brassard extended his goal streak to four games with an empty netter.
"We got some good bounces tonight and Barzy had a nice goal, Bails had a nice one-timer, but we go out there every shift and try to make something happen," Lee said. "Sometimes you get stuck in your zone and have to live to fight another day, but when we had our chances we did a pretty good job capitalizing."
Video: TBL@NYI: Bailey scores to cap beautiful passing play
GREISS, GREISS BABY:
Thomas Greiss has consistently brought his A-game against the Tampa Bay Lightning over the past two seasons.
Greiss stopped 79-of-80 shots in two starts vs the Lightning last season, but somehow was saddled with a preposterous 1-0-1 record, due to a 1-0 shootout loss last February.
He was sharp again on Friday, notably bailing out Anthony Beauvillier on an Ondrej Palat breakaway in the first period. He was at his best in the third period, especially as the Lightning outshot the Isles 9-2 in the first half of the final frame.
With the win, Greiss improved to 5-1-0 on the season and has won four in a row.
The Islanders wrap up a back-to-back set on Saturday night when they take on the Buffalo Sabres. Puck drop is at 7 p.m.