Whew! Isles relieved after topping Sens
Rookie Goalie Berube Helps Snap Season-High Four-Game Skid
The doubt that was beginning to creep its way into the New York Islanders’ locker room was extinguished — for one night, at least — by a 24-year-old rookie goaltender, who readily admitted that the biggest save of his budding NHL career wasn’t really a save at all.
“To be honest, I think it was going wide there, but I was just tracking the puck as good as I could,” Jean-Francois Berube said Wednesday night after helping the previously slumping Islanders snap a season-high four-game slide with a diving, sprawling glove-hand grab of a shot by Ottawa’s Mark Stone in the opening period.
Berube finished with 22 saves en route to his second career win and team captain John Tavares sparked a three-goal second-period outburst as New York topped the visiting Senators, 3-1, in front of 13,827 fans at Downtown’s Barclays Center.
Having been outscored 22-11 during a 1-4-2 skid, the Isles hardly looked ready to snap out of their recent doldrums in the opening stanza.
New York was outshot, 10-5, by Ottawa and could have easily been down a goal without Berube’s acrobatic save on Stone just under seven minutes into play.
“It was a big save, it could have been a turning point in the game,” said Islanders head coach Jack Capuano, who confessed that his struggling unit needed a boost after managing just four goals total during its four-game slide.
“Any time you get a big save like that it lifts your guys,” Capuano added. “It lets them know that the guy between the pipes came to play tonight and we have to battle for him.”
Tavares, goalless in his previous five contests, made sure Berube’s heroics were rewarded, stuffing the rebound of a shot by Josh Bailey past Senators goalie Andrew Hammond at the 5:24 mark of the second period.
“We started to get pucks through, good things happened down low,” said Capuano.
Team tough guy Matt Martin tipped in a point shot from defenseman Travis Hamonic nine minutes later, and only 21 seconds passed before Brock Nelson staked the Isles to a 3-0 lead with a wicked snap shot.
“Good to see some pucks go in, hopefully it can lead to some more,” said a relieved Tavares after New York ended its worst stretch of this historic inaugural campaign in our fair borough, and, more importantly, created some breathing room for itself in the tightly packed Eastern Conference wild-card race.
The Isles (39-24-9, 87 points) jumped four points in front of Detroit and Philadelphia — both tied for the second wild card — and climbed within a single point of Pittsburgh for the coveted third spot in the Metropolitan Division standings.
“We executed well,” Tavares said. “[Berube] was great all game. He was really big for us. He really did a solid job back there.”
Berube’s outstanding effort in his fourth career NHL start may get him another one this weekend, when the Isles head to Florida to take on the Atlantic Division-leading Tampa Bay Lightning Friday night before a quick turnaround game Saturday evening in Carolina.
With only 10 games remaining on the regular-season slate, New York is hoping to cap its first season here not only with the organization’s second consecutive playoff berth, but with a postseason series win for the first time since 1993.
Berube’s do-or-die save in the first period Wednesday night helped to propel the Isles toward both of those goals, especially if he and rest of his teammates can build off this much-needed victory.
“I made a little bit of a desperation save there,” Berube ceded. “We’re getting ready for the playoffs and obviously we want to get in with good momentum.”
Isle Have Another: Despite his recent scoring drought, Tavares has thrived within the friendly confines of Barclays Center of late, accumulating 13 points (six goals, seven assists) in his last 10 home contests … The Islanders officially announced Wednesday that they have agreed on a three-year pact with goalie Eamon McAdam, who was the team’s third-round draft pick in 2013 … Berube and primary back-up goalie Thomas Greiss, who took over starting duties after Jaroslav Halak went down with a groin injury earlier this month, figure to each play one game this weekend during the Isles’ trip through Tampa Bay and Carolina. Capuano had not yet announced whom would get the start against the Lightning Friday night as we went to press with this story … Following their weekend trip, the Isles will return home for a four-game stand, beginning with next Tuesday’s visit by Carolina. Columbus, Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay will also be at Barclays during the critical home stretch.
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