Islanders keeping guard up vs. Blackhawks

A disastrous visit to the Chicago Blackhawks on Jan. 19 led to the end of Lane Lambert’s time behind the New York Islanders’ bench. It also set the table for a climb in the Eastern Conference that the Islanders are enduring under successor Patrick Roy.

Now the Islanders are three points out of the second wild-card spot in the conference with eight games remaining in the regular season.

They hope to avoid another letdown against one of the NHL’s worst teams Tuesday night when they host the Blackhawks in Elmont, N.Y.

New York erased a two-goal deficit before Seth Jones scored 22 seconds into overtime in Chicago on Jan. 19. That loss was in the midst of a 2-6-2 slide during Lambert’s last few weeks on the job, and the Islanders named Roy as his replacement the following day.

The Islanders still are showing some of the same inconsistencies while going 13-12-4 under the former Hall of Fame goaltender. They won six straight from Feb. 26-March 10 and then lost their next six but are 3-2-0 in their past five games, with the two losses coming by a combined 8-1 margin.

New York is in the wild-card chase after ending a three-game trip with a 4-3 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers on Monday night. Brock Nelson scored his 30th goal at 1:24 of overtime after backup goalie Semyon Varlamov allowed the tying goal with 10 seconds left.

“This is how it’s going to be,” New York captain Anders Lee said. “You’re not going to start every game with a lead, but it’s playoff mentality. You got to stay even keeled, stay on topic, stay with your game plan and push through.”

While the Islanders allowed the Flyers to maintain their hold on third place in the Metropolitan, they are chasing the Washington Capitals and Detroit Red Wings.

“We got to back it up, big game tomorrow, looking forward to it,” Lee said.

The Capitals will visit the Buffalo Sabres in a game that starts 30 minutes before the puck drops in Elmont. Washington leads the Islanders by three points and also has a game in hand.

The Islanders also are three points behind the Red Wings, who beat the Tampa Bay Lightning Monday to earn their 26th regulation win. They also earned a 6-3 victory over New York on March 21.

The Blackhawks (22-47-5, 49 points) are playing better of late.

Chicago has scored 13 goals while winning three of its last four games. The Blackhawks are a respectable 7-5-0 since enduring a seven-game losing streak (0-5-2) from Feb. 19-March 4. Five of the victories since the skid are by at least three goals, including a 5-1 rout at Philadelphia on Saturday.

Lukas Reichel and Philipp Kurashev scored in the first period as 11 players registered at least one point. Connor Bedard, who added an assist, has scored four goals and set up 13 others over his past 14 contests.

“Probably our most complete game in some aspects,” Chicago’s Nick Foligno said. “I think we bent but didn’t break, and I think that’s a great sign for a club, where we didn’t let the momentum swings go too far against us.”