To say the New York Islanders are treading upon uncharted ground might be an understatement.
They keep shocking the NHL world throughout the process.
The Islanders have defied the odds — and the preseason predictions — taking a roster that was scoffed at by the NHL world, instituting structure and with it, competence.
Head coach Barry Trotz has led the Islanders to their best season since 1983-84, the last time they were in the Stanley Cup, earning the No. 2 spot in the Metropolitan Division with 103 points.
Playing a defensive brand of hockey that many considered unsustainable, the Islanders are not slowing down yet.
Even in the playoffs.
A 3-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 2 on Friday night from a deafening Nassau Coliseum gave the Islanders a 2-0 series lead.
“It’s probably been a little bit more of the script that’s been handed to us throughout the year,” Islanders captain Anders Lee said. “This room is a strong room, a close room, one that sticks together and I think we’re showing that out on the ice.”
The Islanders reeled off three-straight goals after an Erik Gudbranson second-period tally thanks to goals from Anthony Beauvillier, Jordan Eberle, and Josh Bailey.
Eberle’s game-winner and Bailey’s clincher — which came 3:44 apart in the third period — was each player’s second goal of the postseason
In the fashion of reclaiming successes from the days of yore, it’s the first time the franchise has had a 2-0 lead in a playoff series since 1983 — the last time they won the Stanley Cup.
That’s how rare success has been for this franchise.
And if you’ve watched a moment of the first two games of the series, that’s why Islanders fans have been so boisterous in their ardent support.
“They were good, they get an A+ effort from me tonight,” Trotz said of the fans. “They were outstanding… That’s what the playoffs are about. That’s what I remember about this building.”
Whether it was first-game jitters or a refocusing of its values, the Islanders were a far more organized side in Game 2, allowing just 33 shots on Robin Lehner’s goal compared to 44 two nights earlier in Game 1.
“We got back to our game a little bit more,” Lehner said following his 32-save effort. “The biggest thing today, we were just patient. We didn’t get too high, we didn’t worry, we stuck to our game. We’ve been in 1-1, 2-1 situations all year going into the third and I think that’s been a great experience for us. We had no panic, we didn’t feel nervous, we trust that if we stick to our game, we’re going to win.”
It’s no easy feat to shut down and frustrate a high-powered offense like the Penguins. Yet the Islanders are doing plenty to stymie a team that has won the Stanley Cup twice in the past three years.
Most notably, they’ve kept Penguins captain Sidney Crosby quiet over the first two games as he’ s been held without a point on just three shots.
“Our D core has been phenomenal… Any line that gets out there against him, obviously your eyes are up, you get that much more awareness than you normally would and you have to bear down.”
The series now shifts to Pittsburgh where Crosby and the Penguins will be desperate break down the Islanders and get on the board. Trotz will be counting on the generational talent to emerge back at PPG Paints Arena on Sunday afternoon (12 pm ET, NBC).
“He’s such a great player. To me, he’s the gold standard of this game on and off the ice,” Trotz added. “Obviously, he’s going to be a Hall-of-Famer. I have the utmost respect for Sid. He’s going to be ready for and be a big part of this series.”