Warming-up Blues carry three-game streak into matchup with hot Islanders
On Sunday night, the New York Islanders authored a signature win over this season’s Stanley Cup favorites. On Monday night, the St. Louis Blues made a statement of their own with a resounding win over last season’s Stanley Cup champions.
On Tuesday night, the two teams will look to continue building on their recent momentum when the Islanders face the Blues in New York.
The Islanders earned one of the most surprising wins of the season Sunday when they routed the NHL-leading Tampa Bay Lightning 5-1 at Barclays Center. The Blues notched their own stunner Monday night, beating the host Washington Capitals 4-1. That completed a season sweep of the defending Cup champs for the Blues, who had defeated them 5-2 at home Jan. 3.
By handing the Lightning only their third loss in the past 21 games — and only their second loss of the season by more than three goals — the Islanders continued to cement themselves as a legitimate playoff contender.
New York, which missed the postseason by 17 points last season and then saw captain John Tavares leave for the Toronto Maple Leafs as a free agent, will enter Tuesday 11-3-0 in its past 14 games and in sole possession of the second Eastern Conference wild-card spot.
“I think there’s certain games, or certain times, during the year where you get an opponent that makes you believe or cements what you’re trying to do as a team,” Islanders coach Barry Trotz said Sunday night. “And it sort of galvanizes you, or it gives you a more solid foundation.”
The Blues have ignited their once-flickering playoff hopes by winning a season-high three consecutive games — all over teams currently occupying a playoff spot — and five of their past seven overall.
“They’re gaining confidence game to game here,” Blues interim coach Craig Berube said Monday night. “They feel good about each other and they’re working for each other, and that’s the key: playing for each other and doing the right things and putting the team first.”
Islanders No. 1 goalie Robin Lehner is likely to draw the start Tuesday against the Blues, who probably will turn to hot rookie Jordan Binnington on the second game of a back-to-back set after Jake Allen earned the win Monday.
Lehner, who sat Sunday in favor of Thomas Greiss, had his eight-decision winning streak snapped Saturday, when he took the loss after stopping 24 of 26 shots as the Islanders fell to the New York Rangers 2-1.
Binnington has wasted little time in threatening the starting status of Allen, who opened 14 straight games in net for the Blues before Binnington made his first career start Jan. 7 and recorded a shutout in a 3-0 win over the Philadelphia Flyers. He was only the second St. Louis goalie to notch a shutout in his first NHL start.
The win over the Flyers was the first of three victories in as many starts last week for Binnington, who allowed just two goals on 76 shots — including one goal on 22 shots in his most recent appearance Saturday, when he led the Blues past the Dallas Stars 3-1. Binnington was selected the NHL’s second star of the week Monday.
Lehner is 5-3-1 in nine career appearances against the Blues. Binnington has never faced the Islanders.