The New York Islanders don’t know how long Mathew Barzal will be sidelined.
But the Islanders know they need to perform like they did Monday night if they still want to be playing meaningful games when he gets back.
The Islanders will look to build off a resourceful win and maintain their Eastern Conference wild-card spot Wednesday night, when New York is slated to host the Winnipeg Jets in the first of two games in a four-day span between the nonconference foes.
Both teams were off Tuesday after earning key road victories Monday night. Bo Horvat and Anders Lee scored the tying and go-ahead goals, respectively, in a span of 1:41 in the third period to lift the Islanders to a 4-2 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins. Mark Scheifele scored twice and Connor Hellebuyck made 50 saves as the Jets salvaged the second game of a back-to-back set in the Big Apple by beating the New York Rangers 4-1.
Barzal, who leads the Islanders with 37 assists and ranks second with 51 points, is believed to be week-to-week after suffering a lower body injury in a 6-2 loss to the Boston Bruins on Saturday afternoon.
The Islanders got off to a slow start without their first-line star Monday, when they were outshot 19-7 in the first period. But New York collected 17 shots in the second and seemed energized by a fracas at the end of the period in which the longtime division rivals – who have played each other in the playoffs three times in the last 10 seasons – combined to earn 44 penalty minutes.
The Islanders had just eight shots in the third but scored on three of them – including Brock Nelson’s empty-netter with 25 seconds left – to earn their second win over the Penguins in four days and move into sole possession of the first wild card in the East with 65 points. New York entered Tuesday one point ahead of the Florida Panthers as well as two points ahead of Pittsburgh and three points ahead of the Washington Capitals.
“This team, say whatever you want about us, but we’re going to battle and we’re going to fight until the end,” Lee said. “That’s a full team win. Really proud of our guys tonight. It could’ve gone another way and we pushed through.”
The Jets were staring at the possibility of a fruitless road trip after opening the trek with a 3-1 defeat against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday and squandering a third-period lead in Sunday’s 4-2 loss to the New Jersey Devils.
But Pierre-Luc Dubois scored a power play goal 5:12 into the first Monday night for the Jets, who were just 3 of 36 on the man advantage in their previous nine games. Winnipeg scored just six goals in its previous three games and hadn’t scored at least four goals since a 4-1 win over the Chicago Blackhawks on Feb. 11.
Scheifele scored at least two goals for the 10th time this season for the Jets, who improved to 6-7-0 since Jan. 17 and moved within one point of the idle first-place Dallas Stars in the Central Division race entering Tuesday.
“We had to crank up our intensity,” Jets head coach Rick Bowness said. “We had to start working a lot harder tonight. The guys responded.”
The four-game road trip concludes Wednesday for the Jets, who return home Friday and are slated to host the Islanders in the middle game of a three-game homestand Sunday afternoon.
– Field Level Media