There’s just something out there in the hockey universe that keeps bringing the Islanders and Penguins together.
The hottest team in the NHL, the Islanders, are looking to set a new franchise record on Thursday night in the second leg of a home-and-home series against the Penguins by extending their point streak to 16-straight games.
For the new hockey fans out there, that means the Islanders have gone that many games without losing in regulation.
Tuesday night saw the Islanders tie their franchise-record point streak in Pittsburgh by overcoming a 4-2 deficit with four minutes left to steal a point before winning in overtime.
Goals by Josh Bailey at 15:41 of the third period was followed by Ryan Pulock’s equalizer with just 1:32 to go to make it 15-straight games with at least one point.
Brock Nelson, who had two goals and an assist on the night, picked up the game-winner 2:55 into overtime to improve the Islanders’ record to 15-3-1 on the season and 14-0-1 during the streak.
The Penguins are the only team that has beaten the Islanders since Oct. 11, though it came in overtime on Nov. 7 after the Islanders blew a three-goal lead in the third period.
Thursday night at the Barclays Center will be the latest installment of a rivalry that has pitted these two divisional rivals on some of the biggest occasions:
– During the 1981-82 season, the Islanders set a then-NHL record of 15-straight wins from Jan. 21 to Feb. 21 of 1982. The team that ended the streak? The Penguins in a 4-3 loss in Pittsburgh
– Later that season, the Penguins had a chance to end the Islanders’ dynasty early in the first round of the playoffs when they took a 3-1 third-period lead the final game of the five-game series. Mike McEwen pulled the Islanders within one with 5:27 left in the game before John Tonelli tied it up with 2:21 to go.
Tonelli would score the game-winner in overtime (another 4-3 result) to help the Islanders advance. They would win their third-straight Stanley Cup later that spring and would win a fourth the following year.
– In 1993, it was the Penguins who were the powerhouses of the NHL as they looked to win a third-straight Stanley Cup. But the underdog-Islanders ensured they wouldn’t even see the conference finals thanks to David Volek’s overtime winner in Game 7 to stun Pittsburgh. The final score? 4-3.
The Islanders would lose in the Wales Conference Finals to the eventual Stanley Cup-champion Montreal Canadiens.
– After the loss of John Tavares, the Islanders had a mediocre start to the 2018-19 season at 5-4-1 — which was expected by many when looking at the roster on paper — heading into a home-and-home series against the Penguins on Oct. 30 and Nov. 1, 2018.
The Islanders would win both of those games and take off from there. Since then, they are 58-26-6 in regular-season play as the franchise’s resurgence is in full swing.
That doesn’t include the postseason, which saw the Islanders sweep the Penguins in the first round. It was the first time the Islanders swept a postseason series since the 1983 Stanley Cup Final against the Edmonton Oilers.