Ross Johnston scored the first goal of his NHL career, helping New York complete a season sweep by defeating the Golden Knights 2-1 on Thursday night.
New York, which concluded the first half of the season by scoring a point in six of its last eight games (5-2-1), sits just one point back in the wild-card race and eight points back of Metropolitan Division-leading Washington.
"I think we’ve played some better hockey," Islanders coach Doug Weight said. "We did good things today and it’s got to be something that’ll be fun to watch on the flight home. We were starving for a 2-1 game, we got it against the best team in the league and it’s really exciting."
Jordan Eberle also scored for the Islanders, while Jaroslav Halak had 38 saves.
"I think right now we need any points," Halak said. "Tonight wasn’t any different. I think it was a really good road trip for us. We didn’t get three wins, but we got five points out of six and we should be happy about it."
Vegas (32-12-4) was looking to tie the 1993-94 Florida Panthers for the NHL record for most wins in an inaugural season with 33. It was just the third home loss for the Golden Knights, who are now 19-3-2 at T Mobile Arena.
"It’s disappointing after tonight, but if you look at since the beginning of the season, I think we can be proud of our team to be where we’re at right now," Fleury said. "That’s what we all try for, winning games and having success. That’s why we’ve had success all season long. I bet if you asked me in September if I would be surprised, I probably would say yes. But seeing the way this team has been playing since the beginning of the season, I’m not too surprised."
Johnston, who was recalled from AHL’s Bridgeport on Jan. 19, gave the Islanders a 1-0 lead in the second period after his shot was deflected Golden Knights centre Cody Eakin, who was looking to prevent a pass to the crease, and inadvertently knocked the puck past Fleury.
The Islanders took a 2-0 lead off a turnover as Eberle beat Fleury with a point-blank wrist shot in front of the net. Rookie Mathew Barzal picked up his 35th assist of the season, including his fourth in as many games.
With 3 seconds left on a power play, Haula got Vegas on the board when he tipped David Perron’s shot from the top past Halak with a little more than five minutes left in the game.
Though Vegas found some energy late in the game, it wasn’t the same energy it’s normally ignited by in its own arena. The loss snapped Vegas’ home points streak at 12 games (10-0-2).
"We weren’t as crisp as we usually are, we mishandled a lot of pucks, we weren’t as sharp as usual," Vegas coach Gerard Gallant said. "We looked OK at times, and we looked like we had some good pressure, but for the most part the execution wasn’t there tonight like it usually is. Up until now we played really well. It’s too bad we couldn’t find a way to get a point or two tonight."
New York, which came in ranked 30th both on the road (70.0 per cent) and overall (73.8) with their penalty kill, were 1 for 2 with one man down. The Islanders also did a good job to slow Vegas’ transition game, while also keeping its hottest scoring threat in check for most of the game.
William Karlsson, who has the second-most goals in the league with 27, was limited to just one shot. Karlsson had recorded a point in each of his previous four games, a total of five points, with four goals and one assist.
"We just got pucks in and played a great road game," Weight said. "They’re a good hockey club. They’re going to get their chances. We played a great game, we frustrated them and hopefully we can look back and say this vaulted us somewhat.
"When you look at it going into the break and two teams have left this building in four months with two points, it’s pretty special and it’s something we have to feed off of."
NOTES: The Islanders improved to 2-11-2 when they do not score three goals. They are 23-6-2 when scoring at least three. … As the teams head to the All-Star break, Islanders centre John Tavares will participate in his fifth consecutive game. … Tavares will be joined by Josh Bailey who is making his first trip to All-Star weekend. It’s the first time the Islanders have had two representatives at the event since the 2014-15 season. … Fleury remains two victories away from moving into a tie for 13th all-time among goaltenders with 389.
Islanders: host Florida on Tues. Jan. 30
Golden Knights: open a six-game road trip at Calgary on Tues. Jan. 30