Barzal’s crazy goal, Devon Toews’ first help Islanders win fifth straight

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The New York Islanders are not only playing their best hockey of the season, they are also one of the hottest teams in the entire NHL.

Their 3-2 overtime win against the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday night was not only their eighth win in their past nine games, but was also their fifth in a row as they attempt to keep pace in the tight Eastern Conference playoff race.

Thursday’s game was a particularly strong showing as they outshot the Blackhawks by a 50-21 margin and completely controlled the pace of the game. Had it not been for a sensational performance in net by Chicago’s rookie goalie Collin Delia, this game probably wouldn’t have been anywhere as close it was.

The two stars for the Islanders were forward Mathew Barzal and, somewhat surprisingly, rookie defender Devon Toews.

Barzal playing a big role should not be a surprise at this point. He is the Islanders’ best player (and now their franchise player) and has been playing some of his best hockey of the season in recent weeks.

He continued that hot streak with a pair of goals on Thursday.

The first of those goals was completely ridiculous as he scored by knocking the puck out mid-air with a baseball-style swing from just inside the faceoff circle. It is not totally unheard of to see a player score a mid-air goal, but to see a player do it from this far away from the net with this much force behind it is truly something to behold.

Just look at this shot.

By adding a second goal later in the game he has now found the back of the net eight times in his past seven games, a stretch that has seen him tally 11 total points.

He is now up to 12 goals and 38 total points for the season.

A fluky goal from Chicago’s Patrick Kane tied the game early in the third period, ultimately sending the game to overtime.

It was there that Toews (no relation to Chicago’s Jonathan Toews) scored his first NHL goal to lift the Islanders to the win.

The goal came in Toews’ fifth NHL game.

Thursday’s game was the Islanders’ fourth game back at the Nassau Coliseum this season and improved their record to 3-0-1 in the old barn.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.