UNIONDALE, N.Y. — The New York Islanders didn’t miss a beat after a four-day break.
Anders Lee’s third-period goal was the eventual winner and the Islanders beat the Arizona Coyotes 4-2 on Thursday night in their first game since an overtime win over Columbus on Saturday.
Derick Brassard and Josh Bailey also scored and Brock Nelson recorded two assists as the Islanders won their fifth consecutive game. Semyon Varlamov made 21 saves in his third win of the season.
“It feels good,” Brassard said. “I think our team is going in the right direction. We are building some really strong things here. We can’t be satisfied. This is a really good league and everyone is winning. We just have to keep going.”
Michael Grabner and Conor Garland scored for Arizona. Darcy Keumper made 18 saves as the Coyotes’ four-game winning streak was snapped. Jakob Chychrun recorded two assists.
Kuemper’s impressive 13-game stretch of allowing two goals or less came to an end when Lee slipped a backhander past the goaltender at the eight-minute mark of the third period. Kuemper is one of 11 goalies in NHL history to have had such a streak. Bailey and Devon Toews assisted on Lee’s goal.
“A little humble pie for the team,” Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet said. “I thought some guys were sluggish or whatever. You have to play with your nose over the puck, not on your heels. We played on our heels a little bit and that’s what happens.”
Bailey broke a 1-1 tie at 14:03 of the second period when he fired a one-timer from the high slot past Kuemper. Defenceman Adam Pelech helped start the offensive opportunity when he skated into the zone with control of the puck. The Islanders generated a few chances before Bailey scored, with assists going to Nick Leddy and Nelson.
“As soon as Leddy started coming down, you are trying to do the opposite and pop high and get open,” Bailey said of his mindset during the possession. “He sold it really well and made a great play.”
Brassard opened the scoring at 1:25 of the first period when he redirected a puck from Ryan Pulock past Kuemper. Prior to Brassard’s first goal of the season, the Coyotes hadn’t trailed since the first period against Winnipeg on Oct. 15, four games ago. Pulock and Nelson picked up assists on the play.
The Islanders signed Brassard late in the summer to a one-year contract after the centre struggled to find his game after being traded twice last season. The 32-year-old has predominantly played in the middle throughout his 13-year career, but skated at left wing for the first time as a member of the Islanders, alongside Nelson and Anthony Beauvillier.
“Systematically it helps because everybody has to know each other’s role,” Islanders coach Barry Trotz said of having two centres on the team’s second line. “The compliment is one guy is not in position they know how to fill in the blanks and gives you some support underneath in the right areas. I just think he (Brassard) looked pretty comfortable.”
Grabner evened the score at 1-1 when he snapped a wrist shot past Varlamov at 10:20 of the first period. Bailey failed to effectively chip the puck deep into the offensive zone and the former Islander took advantage of the turnover. Chychrun assisted on the play.
Garland cut the Coyotes’ deficit to one goal when he scored off a rebound at 18:55 of the third period. Chychrun and Phil Kessel assisted on the play.
Islanders defenceman Scott Mayfield scored an empty-netter with 12 seconds remaining to seal the victory.
“That was more Islanders hockey,” Trotz said. “Everyone was engaged physically. We didn’t have any passengers.”
Prior to the game, the Islanders placed Leo Komarov on injured reserve and activated Casey Cizikas. Cizikas missed the previous five games with a lower-body injury. … New York scratched 19-year-old defenceman Noah Dobson, and forwards Ross Johnston and Tom Kuhnhackl. … Chychrun skated in his 180th NHL game and has played the most games by a defenceman before his 22nd birthday in franchise history. … Arizona scratched Eric Comrie, Barrett Hayton and Aaron Ness.
Islanders: At Ottawa Senators on Friday.
Coyotes: At New Jersey Devils on Friday.
More AP NHL: www.apnews.com/NHL and www.twitter.com/AP_Sports
Scott Charles, The Associated Press