Islanders ‘killing it’ at Barclays Center
Blank Flames, 4-0, to Boost Home Record to 4-1-1
The New York Islanders continued to play the role of killers on Monday night, extending their streak of snuffing out opponents’ power plays en route to an easy 4-0 victory over the visiting Calgary Flames in front of 11,582 fans at Downtown’s Barclays Center.
Jaroslav Halak made 29 saves for his second shutout in four starts since returning from an upper-body injury, Frans Nielsen scored a pair of goals and New York stretched its penalty killing streak to 21 while boosting its record in Brooklyn to 4-1-1.
“Last season, we started off really bad,” Halak admitted of the Islanders’ previous inability to kill off the opposition’s chances with the man advantage.
“This season, they don’t want it to happen. Being together, second season, guys know what they’re supposed to do on the ice. They can count on each other out there.”
They’ve counted on one another to the tune of an NHL-best 91.2 percent efficiency rating while being a man down through nine games, easily staving off three Calgary power-plays on Monday evening.
Halak, who sat out the season’s first four games, hasn’t missed a beat since his return, blanking a pair of opponents while upping his personal record to 3-1 with a sparkling 1.76 goals-against average.
Head coach Jack Capuano, who made due with back-up Thomas Greiss and since-demoted rookie Jean-Francois Berube during Halak’s absence, is certainly glad to have his No. 1 goalie back between the pipes.
“He’s played well,” Capuano said of Halak, who established a franchise record with 38 wins last season “He made some big saves for us when we needed them. I thought we did a real good job … He’s a guy that gives us a chance to win. Our goalies have done a good job for us this year. He’s a focused guy. We didn’t want to rush him back. We wanted to make sure his conditioning was where it needed to be and he was feeling really good. It’s paying dividends right now for us.”
Those dividends continued to pile up for an Islander team that is within a point of the reigning Presidents’ Trophy winners, aka the Rangers, from across the East River for the top spot in the Metropolitan Division.
With the home crowd starting to get a feel for the new residents on the corners of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues, the Islanders (6-2-1, 13 points) played the Flames to a scoreless draw in the opening stanza before Mikhail Grabovski, the hero of Saturday night’s 3-2 overtime triumph in St. Louis, gave Brooklyn something to cheer about on a power-play opportunity of his own.
He beat Calgary netminder Joni Ortio with a shot from between the circles off a feed from Josh Bailey, putting New York in front to stay at 14:01 of the second period.
Cal Clutterbuck sandwiched his third goal of the season around a pair by Nielsen in the third as the Islanders rebounded nicely in front of the home faithful after last Friday night’s humbling 5-3 defeat to Boston.
“I think guys are doing a pretty good job out there as far as keeping [shots] on the outside,” Halak told NHL.com. “If there’s any rebound or anything like that, they’re there. It’s always good when you can always count on the guys back there that they will do their job.”
Kyle Okposo had a pair of assists for the Islanders, who will look to resume their recent home dominance and penalty killing prowess at Barclays on Thursday night against the Carolina Hurricanes.
Isle Have Another: Not all the news was good coming out of the Islanders’ locker room on Monday night. Defenseman Thomas Hickey did not play and is expected to miss about a month with a lower-body injury, according to Newsday. … It was the Islanders’ fourth line of Clutterbuck, Casey Cizikas and Matt Martin that gave Calgary the most trouble Monday night. The trio combined for a plus-three rating, a goal and an assist during its time on the ice, and spent a lot of time either frustrating or denying scoring chances for Calgary. “We’re three pretty similar type of players,” Clutterbuck said of his fourth-line brethren. “Obviously, with some subtle differences here and there, but I think the main thing about the three of us is that our work ethic is kind of parallel in that respect. We work well together.”
In other local pro sports news, the Nets have trimmed their roster to the 15-man limit with a pair of late cuts in advance of Wednesday night’s season opener against the visiting Chicago Bulls at Barclays Center.
Brooklyn general manager Billy King announced Monday that the Nets have requested waivers on forward Justin Harper and swingman Dahntay Jones.
Harper, who signed with Brooklyn on Sept. 18, appeared in six preseason contests with averages of 9.0 points and 4.7 rebounds in 19.1 minutes per game.
Jones, another September signee, averaged 7.5 points and 2.0 rebounds in four exhibition games.
Also of note, the New York Cosmos, who will host their NASL Championship Semifinal contest at Coney Island’s MCU Park on Nov. 7, will be getting more acquainted with the neighborhood and community Wednesday afternoon.
Five players from the team, including leading scorer Leonardo Fernandes, will visit the New York Aquarium’s Wildlife Conservation Society at 3 p.m. to discuss their upcoming chase of the NASL title.
Also on hand with be Cosmos forward Kharlton Belmar, midfielder Jimmy Mulligan and goalkeepers Brian Holt and Keasel Broome.
The Cosmos, who already own five Soccer Bowl trophies, will also play their regular-season finale at MCU Park on Halloween night, Oct. 31, at 7 p.m.
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