Jaroslav Halak extended his franchise record with his 35th win of the season in his 51st appearance. Ryan Strome keyed both of the Islanders non-empty-net goals with a goal and an assist. Travis Hamonic provided the breathing room late in the third period of a close game, while Kyle Okposo potted the empty netter.
Halak made 26 saves, a few of them both very good and critical while the game was still 1-0, for his fifth shutout. The win means the Isles finish 4-0 against the Devils this season, improving their Metropolitan Division record to 20-5-1.
Quite a numerous and vocal Islanders fan contingent was on hand to see it, with "Yes! Yes! Yes!" chants taking over after each Isles goal. MSG (no doubt via Eric Hornick) reported it was their first sweep of a season series with the Devils since 1983-84. If the Devils revive sometime soon, the Metro's metro area could see true three-way rivalry again.
The Goals and Things
The Islanders opened scoring early in the first period after a turnover from a harmless dump-in, where Eric Gelinas learned the hard way that you never initiate a physical battle with Nikolay Kulemin.
Cory Schneider was the initial culprit, dishing the puck a little too casually to Gelinas in the corner to Schneider's right. But Gelinas could have fetched the puck and cleared it immediately; instead, rather than do that and take the hit, he tried to reverse hit the forechecking Kulemin first. Bad idea.
Kulemin won that collision, took control of the puck himself, and fed Strome in the left wing circle, where he laced a patented Strome wrist shot high and short side.
The game was tight and both goalies were tested over the next 30-plus minutes of game time. The Isles could not break through for an insurance marker until Strome made a nice, heads-up retrieval in the high slot and backhanded a pass to Hamonic, whose one-timer beat Schneider just inside the post.
In the intervening 30 minutes, Halak came up big and gave you that "number one" goalie feeling -- which was important since Schneider was just as tough at the other end. One thing he didn't have to do: Kill a penalty. The Islanders suddenly hot (knock on wood) penalty kill was only put to work once, but did not concede a shot on goal. The Isles' lone power play was stopped on four shots.
Kyle Okposo finished scoring -- and got John Tavares on the scoresheet to end his run of zeroes -- with an empty net goal from center ice. The first line had been out for nearly a minute up to that point, including an icing after John Tavares took a second unsuccessful shot at the empty net.
But even though the Devils pulled Schneider with two minutes to go, the Isles defense was strong and never looked close to letting the Devils back in at that point.
Quote of the Night
"I think he's got his mojo back for the playoffs."
Then, seconds later:
"[the forecheck] is kind of [Kulemin's] brud and better. Er, brud and better. Ahh, BREAD and BUTTER..."
The Islanders host the red-hot and surging Minnesota Wild on Tuesday. The Smurfs won in Carolina via shootout tonight, so no ground was gained in the Metro chase.