SAINT PAUL, Minn. — For the first time since Mathew Barzal’s injury just over a week ago, the Islanders have special teams goals in consecutive games.
After an 0-for-10 stretch on the power play that recalled the unit’s December and January nadir immediately followed Barzal’s injury, that is an encouraging sign of life, even though Anders Lee’s would-be opening goal on Sunday was ruled out for a high stick during the Isles’ only power-play chance. Despite that, the power play got on the board Friday in a loss to the Kings, and Bo Horvat scored shorthanded on Sunday for a penalty-kill unit that is humming along despite the loss of Jean-Gabriel Pageau.
There is little need to get carried away over the Islanders’ power play, which ranks 28th in the league and has struggled this season even with Barzal. But given their strength on the kill — which ranks sixth at 82.42 percent — it wouldn’t take much from the power play to turn special teams into a real weapon for this team.
“Sometimes it’s a little tough on the power play, first touch of the game, first shift, but I thought we did a good job getting a couple looks,” Brock Nelson said following Sunday’s 4-0 win over Winnipeg. “We were hoping it was close enough that [the review] would go in our favor but I thought we were on the attack. It definitely showed in the first.”
For a unit that has so often acted as a momentum-sapping instrument for the Islanders, that might be something to build on.
Especially when the PK is operating on full tilt, as it was Sunday when Horvat got the Isles on the board by beating David Rittich shorthanded, the fourth time this season the Isles have scored down a man.
“Real big,” Zach Parise said. “Played enough in this building to know if they get one early, this place can get loud and be a really tough place to play. … To get a shorthanded goal is pretty deflating for them.”
Anders Lee (Edina), Parise (Minneapolis), Hudson Fasching (Apple Valley) and Nelson (Warroad) all hail from the state of Minnesota where the Isles will face the Wild on Tuesday night. Parise played nine seasons with the Wild before getting bought out of his contract in 2021.
Nelson reached a career high with his 60th point on Sunday. He has points in 16 of 17 games and is the highest-scoring Islanders player since Barzal in 2019-20.
The Islanders did not practice on Monday.