Barry Trotz left Washington after guiding the Capitals to their first Stanley Cup last season. This time the coach could leave the nation’s capital with his new team in first place in the Metropolitan Division.
The Islanders’ latest victory, 4-1 over the struggling Devils on Thursday night at NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum, propelled them within a point of the Capitals and Blue Jackets in the division.
A win over the Capitals on Friday night at Capital One Arena and a regulation loss by the Blue Jackets to the visiting Canadiens and the Islanders (27-15-4) would be atop the division as they seek their first playoff berth since 2016.
The Islanders have won three straight and 13 of 16. They also improved to 4-2-0 in this grueling stretch of nine games in 15 days leading into the All-Star break.
The Islanders scored three first-period goals and Robin Lehner stopped 16 shots as they beat the Devils (18-22-7) for the third time in as many games. Anders Lee scored twice for the Isles.
Rookie Mackenzie Blackwood made 22 saves for the Devils, who have lost two straight and six of nine. Hart Trophy winner Taylor Hall (lower body) missed his 12th straight game.
“It’s definitely not a bummer,” Jordan Eberle, Hall’s former Oilers teammate, said of his absence. “He definitely helps their lineup. When he’s not in it, it’s a piece they’re missing.”
Lehner has won 10 of his last 11 decisions, but defenseman Andy Greene’s deflection through his pads at 7:07 of the third period ended his bid for a third shutout this season.
Still, it marked the seventh time in Lehner’s last 11 decisions that he has allowed one or fewer goals. He made 30 saves in Tuesday night’s 4-3 overtime win over the Blues at Barclays Center.
The Devils were able to sustain offensive-zone pressure in the third period, something they could not do in the first 40 minutes.
The Islanders were held without a shot for the first 5:48 of the first period but then scored on two of their first three, both on deflections.
Lee made it 1-0 by getting his stick on defenseman Nick Leddy’s shot from the left point. Then rookie Michael Dal Colle notched his first NHL goal in his 14th career game by tipping defenseman Scott Mayfield’s shot from the right point at 9:19 of the first period.
Trotz acknowledged how far Dal Colle’s game has come since training camp.
“Michael didn’t have much pace during training camp,” he said before the game. “Maybe he was a player lacking a little bit of confidence. I think he’s got pace back into his game. He’s got size. He’s got a lot of things you look for.”
Eberle, with a goal in his second straight game, extended the Islanders’ lead to 3-0 on the power play at 15:12 as Blackwood faced only five shots in the first period.
He stopped all 12 shots he faced in the second period as the Islanders continued to dominate play.
At one point, the Islanders, playing keepaway, held Devils defenseman Sami Vatanen on the ice for 3:15, Greene and center Travis Zajac for 3:03, left wing Blake Coleman for 2:53 and right wing Kyle Palmieri for 2:38.
Lee’s empty-netter at 17:41 of the third period clinched it.