The New York Islanders needed a boost at home after a rough four-game trip last week. Semylon Varlamov's strong netminding again proved key — as did a scoring injection from captain Anders Lee.
Lee scored twice and added an assist, Varlamov made 29 saves and the Islanders won their second straight at Nassau Coliseum, beating the San Jose Sharks 4-1 on Sunday night.
Defenseman Devon Toews and Josh Bailey also scored to help the Islanders move within one point of idle Philadelphia for third place in the tightly contested Metropolitan Division. The reeling Sharks lost their fourth straight.
"You’re only as good as your top players and they are coming through for us,'' Islanders coach Barry Trotz said.
Varlamov also played Friday when the Islanders downed the Detroit Red Wings to snap a four-game losing streak. With the win, Varlamov improved to 19-12-4 this season, his first with the Islanders.
Lee opened the scoring at 6:49 of the first, beating Sharks netminder Martin Jones. Linemates Mathew Barzal and Jordan Eberle assisted.
San Jose’s Dylan Gambrell tied it with this fifth goal of the campaign at 10:36 of the opening period. Radim Simek and Timo Meier had assists.
Lee scored again at 1:10 of the second period, his 19th goal this season. Toews and Barzal assisted. Barzal leads the Islanders with 52 points and needs one point to reach 200 in his career.
It was the first two-goal game this season for the 29-year-old Lee, who scored 28 goals last season and netted 40 goals in 2017-18. Lee replaced John Tavares as captain before last season, then signed a new seven-year, $49 million contract last July. Lee is second on the team in goals behind Brock Nelson who has 22.
“Any time you are the team scoring early, there’s just a little bit of juice, a little bit of freedom,” Lee said. "You feel good, you find your legs pretty quick.”
Toews scored to make it 3-1 at 17:38 of the middle period, his sixth goal this season. Nelson assisted.
“We were good tonight and Varly was great,'' Toews said.
Bailey added an empty-net goal to close out the scoring. Lee and Nelson had assists on on Bailey's goal and Lee's selfless act — passing up his first career hat trick — impressed Trotz.
"That tells you a lot about Anders and the kind of leader he is and the kind of person he is,” Trotz said.
The struggling Sharks were coming off 3-2 loss to Rangers on Saturday and had also lost 2-1 to the New Jersey Devils in Newark last Thursday. San Jose continues its east coast journey at Philadelphia on Tuesday, a day after the league’s trade deadline. The Sharks (26-32-4) have only missed the playoffs once since 2003. That was in 2014-15.
“The Islanders are pretty tight. They don't give you a lot," Sharks interim coach Bob Boughner said. "We just couldn't generate many second and third chances tonight.”
The Islanders are 13-7-1 at Nassau Coliseum this season and 7-0-3 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. The Islanders play four of their next six games at home (three on Long Island and one in Brooklyn) after which they will play nine of 12 games on the road.
“We just needed a big win tonight following the win on Friday," added Lee. "We just stuck with it and we're getting rewarded. Our division is crazy and tight. Every night is huge."
Asked about building momentum heading into the final six weeks of the regular season and inevitable daily grind of the playoff chase, Trotz said it's all about focusing on the present.
“Momentum is fleeting, very day to day and minute to minute,'' said Trotz, who moved into third place on the team's coaching wins list with 82. “We just have to keep climbing. Everyone on the rope and pulling.”
NOTES: The Islanders scratched defenseman Noah Dobson and forwards Derick Brassard and Ross Johnston … The Islanders continued to be without injured forwards Cal Clutterbuck and Casey Cizikas and defenseman Adam Pelech … The Sharks scratched forwards Antti Suomela and Melker Karlsson plus defenseman Nicholas Meloche … The Sharks won the team’s previous meeting this season, 2-1 in overtime on Nov. 23 in San Jose … The Islanders are 23-7-3 when scoring first …The Islanders are 31-2-3 this season when scoring at least three goals.
Islanders: Host New York Rangers at Nassau Coliseum on Tuesday night.
Sharks: At Philadelphia on Tuesday night.