NEWARK, N.J. (AP) A lucky carom on an early goal by a fourth-line center and a bounce-back effort by Jaroslav Halak in goal were all the New York Islanders needed to get a much-needed win over the New Jersey Devils.
Casey Cizikas scored on a rebound off his leg early and a struggling Halak had 27 saves to lead the Islanders to a 1-0 victory over New Jersey on Friday night in the opener of a season-long, seven-game trip.
The Islanders are in third place in the Metropolitan Division, four points ahead of the fifth-place Devils with two games in hand.
“To win this game gives us a little bit of room,” said Halak, who was 1-4 in his last five games. “But any night from now on is going to be like this. We just need to keep playing well and keep picking up points.”
Halak was outstanding and had a little help from the post while getting his third shutout. Reid Boucher‘s 1-on-1 chance in the first period hit iron, but Halak also made great saves in close against Sergey Kalinin, Kyle Palmieri and Lee Stempniak, the last one a pad save early in the third period when the Devils’ forward had a seemingly open net.
“Halak came up huge for us tonight,” Cizikas said. “He had the big save I think on Stempniak in the third period. He basically kept us in the game. He made some huge saves when we needed him to and I thought we played a good game tonight.”
The win was the Islanders third in four games (3-0-1) with the Devils this season, and New York really shut things down in the third period, limiting the Devils to seven shots.
Cory Schneider made 23 saves and the Devils lost their second straight.
Defenseman Adam Larsson and center Jacob Josefson had the last two in the closing 2 minutes, when New Jersey killed off a penalty to Adam Henrique.
“Obviously after the last start I wasn’t feeling great, but you just have to forget about it,” said Halak, who gave up six goals in 40 minutes at Carolina last Saturday night. “There is nothing you can do about the past. The game in Carolina wasn’t the greatest by me or anybody. But it happens in hockey and it’s how you react the next game, how you rebound.”
Coming off an overtime loss to the Capitals on Thursday night, the Islanders needed less than 2 minutes take the lead.
Defenseman Nick Leddy, who had a goal and nine assists in his previous 10 games, took a shot from the left circle on a counterattack. The puck rebounded in front between the circles, banked off Cizikas’ pants and fluttered into the net for his sixth goal.
“It went off my pant leg,” Cizikas said. “I didn’t try to kick it or anything like that. I was just trying to go hard to the nets and Leds made a really good play by just throwing it on net and trying to create a rebound. I was lucky enough for it to go off me and in.”
The goal was upheld after a review.
“I couldn’t get a bead on it,” Schneider said.
New York had a chance to break the game open in the final 5 minutes of the second period when Devils forward Jordin Tootoo drew a 5-minute major and a game misconduct for cross-checking defenseman Johnny Boychuk behind the Islanders net.
Boychuk returned for the third period.
The Devils, however, were outstanding on the penalty kill and limited New York to a long shot by John Tavares, leaving them only a goal behind entering the third period.
The loss was tough for the Devils, who have to travel to Washington to play the Capitals on Saturday. New Jersey is now 8-4-2 in its last 14.
“We played a good game,” Devils coach John Hynes said. “We’re happy with the commitment level we play with and how we play but we have to find a better way to put the puck in the net.”
NOTES: The Devils placed F Stefan Matteau (facial fracture) on injured reserve, retroactive to Feb. 12. … The Islanders won’t play again until Tuesday night in Minnesota. … Devils D Jon Merrill returned to the lineup after missing 12 games with an arm injury. … Islanders D Calvin de Haan missed his second straight game with a lower-body injury. … Devils captain Andy Greene played in his 288th consecutive game and tied Aaron Broten for the team’s sixth longest streak.