Nearly nine minutes through the final stanza, the Islanders hadn't registered a shot on goal, en route to a 15-5 deficit in the third. The 30th place penalty kill had already failed on two of three attempts, and the crowd seemed grimly quiet, as if to brace themselves for a let down against one of the worst teams in hockey.
Then, suddenly, Colin McDonald to Casey Cizikas.
But despite the triumph, their third in four games, New York hasn't scored more than three goals in a game since January 27. Even though he's getting much better chances of late, Brock Nelson hasn't found the back of the net in 15 games, Ryan Strome has been held without a point in seven contests, and Frans Nielson has one goal in his last 17. Even Josh Bailey, who did deflect a puck past Viktor Fasth and has been entrenched on the first line, hadn't scored in seven outings before his second period tally. Still, it hasn't kept the Islanders from finding ways to take care of business.
"Right now, we're not scoring goals the way we were earlier in the year," John Tavares told reporters after Tuesday night's 3-2 victory. "You still have to find ways to get results even when you're not playing as well as you'd like."
It's true. We've almost been spoiled by the early, torrid goal scoring pace of Brock and Anders Lee's insane 1.35 goals per 60 seems (good for 15th in the league) that we've forgotten how fickle lighting the lamp can be. The truth is that good teams find a way to find win even when they're going through the ebbs of a season, and the Isles have done just that. Some of that can be attributed to better personnel taking away the reliance of simply getting goals from forwards not named Tavares to improve their offense (per Eric Hornick, the team is 14-5-0 in games where Tavares goes pointless). Islanders defensemen need just one more goal to match their scoring mark from all of last season, for example. But some of it is an attitude; unlocking the secret to becoming a consistent contender in the NHL.
"Not everybody had their game, but we found a way to win," Jack Capuano said after the game. "And that's the sign of a good team."
Even with a three point cushion atop the Metropolitian, there's obviously room for improvement, both on special teams and on nights where Jaroslav Halak isn't saving the day. And New York can't survive forever without getting offense from the majority of their forwards. But finding ways to weather this recent drought has shown just how far this team has come.