Islanders aim to maintain unblemished division record vs. Devils

NEW YORK — Everyone knew things would be different for the New York Islanders after the departure of generational talent John Tavares. But few people expected the difference to manifest itself in a potentially record-setting start for the Islanders, who will look to remain perfect in the Metropolitan Division when they host the New Jersey Devils on Saturday night at Barclays Center.

The Islanders extended their winning streak to four games Thursday night when they moved into a tie for first place in the Metropolitan with a 3-2 shootout win over the other first-place occupant, the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Devils suffered their second straight loss Thursday night, falling to the host Detroit Red Wings 4-3.

The winning streak for the Islanders (7-4-1) has come entirely against Metropolitan opponents. New York is 5-0-0 in the Metropolitan this season, the franchise’s best start against divisional rivals since it opened the 1982-83 season 6-0-0 (wins-losses-ties) in the Patrick Division.

That team won the last of the Islanders’ four straight Stanley Cups. It’s a little early to ascribe such lofty goals to this year’s squad, but the spate of divisional wins — including back-to-back wins over the Penguins, whom New York beat 6-3 in Pittsburgh on Tuesday — has provided a much-needed confidence boost.

“Any time you put a few wins together, the feeling gets really good in the room,” Islanders center and captain Anders Lee told reporters Thursday night. Lee replaced Tavares as captain after Tavares signed as a free agent with the Toronto Maple Leafs on July 1.

“That energy is there. We’re playing good hockey against some good teams. They’ve set the standard the last few years and to get a couple wins — obviously just a shootout (Thursday) — but (they are) huge points for us.”

The Devils (5-4-1) got off to their own fast start but are just 1-4-1 since opening 4-0-0. New Jersey, which allowed just four goals in the first four games, has been outscored 28-17 in the last six games, during which it has given up four or more goals five times.

The Devils were particularly discouraged Thursday night when they gave up two power play goals and two short-handed goals against the Red Wings.

“Gave up two short-handers and didn’t get stops on the (penalty kill),” Devils coach John Hynes told reporters afterward. “So there’s the difference.”

The Islanders’ Thomas Greiss and the Devils’ Cory Schneider, each of whom started Thursday night, are likely to start again Saturday.

Greiss picked up the win against the Penguins by making 29 saves, including a spectacular stop on a Sidney Crosby breakaway in overtime on which Greiss exited the crease and lunged to poke the puck away from Crosby. Greiss was starting in place of Robin Lehner, who suffered back spasms Tuesday and returned to practice Friday.

Schneider took the loss after making 27 saves in his first start of the season. He missed the first eight games recovering from May hip surgery.

“I didn’t really feel any limitations physically,” Schneider told reporters Thursday night. “I was able to move freely and all that stuff.”

Greiss is 2-4-0 in six career games against the Devils. Schneider is 3-5-2 in 10 appearances against the Islanders.