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Islanders blow past Hurricanes to continue division dominance

The audacity of the Islanders, talking about the Metropolitan Division standings like nobody alerted them that they were supposed to be bad.

But there was another victory on the board, a vacuum-sealed 4-1 win over their whipping boys, the Hurricanes, on Saturday night at Barclays Center. It happened to wrap up their a sweep of Thanksgiving weekend, now improving to 9-1-0 in the division, which includes the 4-3 overtime win over the Devils in Newark on Friday and the two previous wins against, well, the Candy Canes.

“We just keep looking up,” coach Barry Trotz said about his team that is now 12-8-2 and in third place in division. “The view doesn’t change unless you’re at the top. So let’s see if we can change a couple views here.”

Maybe what was most impressive about this win was not that goalie Thomas Greiss started both games of the back-to-back and was solid, but that the team in front of him hardly allowed the Hurricanes (11-9-3) to get off the copious amount of shots that have defined their style of play. While Greiss needed 39 saves in Newark, he needed just 26 in this one, only losing his shutout on a Justin Williams power-play goal in the waning minutes of the third period when his team was already up, 4-0.

“Got in at a decent time yesterday, had a good night’s sleep, so makes it easier,” said Greiss, referring to Friday’s 4 p.m. start in Jersey. “We just played a good team game and didn’t give them many chances. Scored early and took the momentum right away.”

Trotz has been adamant about driving home the fact that these divisional games are so important, especially with the standings so tight and the parity in the league. His team has responded in kind, figuring out a way to play their best hockey in the games with the most on the line. It leaves them beginning to talk about such things like playoff seeding, which would have seemed rather pie-eyed in September.

Valtteri Filppula scores a first-period goal on Scott Darling.
Valtteri Filppula scores a first-period goal on Scott Darling.NHLI via Getty Images

“We know the importance,” said Josh Bailey, who had a goal and an assist. “And when it comes to playoff seeding, it’s obviously crucial.”

Bailey’s line with Mathew Barzal and Anthony Beauvillier was terrific for the second straight night, creating space and offense that led the way. Midway through the first, already staked to a 1-0 lead on a great individual effort from Valtteri Filppula, Barzal made a nice play to keep a puck in, eventually feeding Bailey who fed Beauvillier in front for his fifth goal in as many games, taking a quick 2-0 lead.

Bailey then was able to add one of his own at 13:17 of the second, beating Carolina goalie Scott Darling on a little wrist shot from in front to make it 3-0. When Adam Pelech made it 4-0 on an innocuous shot from the left circle at 8:52 of the third, it was 4-0 and Darling’s name was being chanted by the 10,015 in attendance.

Once again, the Hurricanes were there to take the Islanders’ punishment — just like the rest of the division.

“Sometimes you get these random stats, and I think we’ll take this one, for sure,” Bailey said. “It’s a good one to have.”

Yet a step-up in class is coming, beginning with an emotional game for Trotz coming in Brooklyn on Monday night against the Capitals, the team he won the Stanley Cup just this past year. After a quick stop in Boston on Thursday — no push-over game itself — it’s the second-place Blue Jackets coming in for the first game of the season at the Coliseum on Dec. 1.

Few saw the Islanders being able to win like this in the division, but it’s a good place to start if the they want to make this season more than what most expected.

“I think going into any game, you have to get fired up and have that preparation,” Bailey said. “But like anything, there’s a little extra going into divisional games.”

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