‘Halak came up huge’ in shutout win over Devils

Associated Press
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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.

Maple Leafs’ Matthews out at least 3 weeks with knee injury

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Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews will miss at least three weeks with a sprained knee.

The team announced the reigning MVP’s anticipated absence Friday, two days after Matthews was injured in Toronto’s victory against the New York Rangers.

Matthews is expected to miss at least six games and could be out for a few more. The timing of the injury coinciding with the NHL All-Star break and the Maple Leafs bye week prevents this from costing Matthews more time out of the lineup.

After being voted an All-Star by fans, Matthews is now out of the event scheduled for Feb. 3-4 in Sunrise, Florida. The league announced Aleskander Barkov from the host Florida Panthers will take Matthews’ place on the Atlantic Division All-Star roster.

Matthews, who won the Hart Trophy last season after leading the NHL with 60 goals, has 53 points in 47 games this season.

Caufield opted for surgery with Habs out of playoff race

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MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens winger Cole Caufield said Friday he wouldn’t be having season-ending surgery on his right shoulder if the team were in playoff contention.

But with the Canadiens near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the 22-year-old Caufield said he decided to have the surgery to protect his long-term health. The procedure is scheduled to be performed by Dr. Peter Millett on Wednesday.

“I didn’t want to stop playing,” Caufield said. “I had a couple tests done to look at it more clearly but, in the end, like it could’ve been one more fall and it could have been even worse.”

Caufield, who leads the Canadiens with 26 goals in 46 games, had three different medical opinions on his shoulder before concluding that his season was over.

“I think they’ve seen a lot more than I have and they know the differences and what they like or don’t like about it,” he said about the medical opinions. “Long term, I think this is what’s best but for sure it was tough to sit out that game against Toronto on Saturday night.”

Caufield initially felt the injury in an awkward fall during Montreal’s 4-2 loss at Dallas on Dec. 23. He said his right shoulder popped, and he replaced it himself.

Caufield felt it again in the Habs’ 4-3 loss at Nashville on Jan. 12. The club announced on Jan. 21 that Caufield would miss the rest of the season.

Caufield is nearing the end of his three-year, entry-level contract and will be a restricted free agent this summer.

All-Star Matty Beniers to miss next 2 games for Kraken

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SEATTLE — Seattle Kraken rookie All-Star Matty Beniers will miss the team’s final two games before the All-Star break after taking a big hit from Vancouver’s Tyler Myers earlier this week.

Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said after morning skate Friday that Beniers would not play Friday night against Calgary or Saturday against Columbus. Hakstol did not speculate on Beniers’ availability for next weekend’s All-Star Game in Florida.

The team has not specified what kind of injury Beniers sustained from the hit. He was barreled over by Myers away from the play early in the second period in Wednesday’s 6-1 victory over Vancouver. Myers was penalized for interference on the play. Beniers returned briefly for one shift later in the period but did not play in the third period.

Beniers is Seattle’s lone All-Star selection this season. He leads all rookies in goals (17) and points (36), and is fifth in total ice time for rookies.

Seattle also placed defenseman Justin Schultz on injured reserve and recalled forward Max McCormick from Coachella Valley of the AHL. Hakstol said Schultz is improving but there’s no timeline on his return.

Kuzmenko signs 2-year extension with Canucks

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Forward Andrei Kuzmenko signed a two-year contract extension with the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday.

The deal has an average annual value of $5.5 million.

The 26-year-old Kuzmenko has played in 47 games for the Canucks this season with 21 goals and 22 assists, four penalty minutes and a plus-4 defensive ranking.

Kuzmenko ranks second on the team in goals and power-play goals (nine) this season.

His 43 points are also tied for third on the team in overall scoring, while his 32 even-strength points (12 goals, 20 assists) are second on the Canucks.

Kuzmenko leads all Vancouver skaters in shooting rate (24.7%) and ranks third in the NHL in that category (minimum of 20 games).

He leads all first-year NHLers in almost every offensive category, including goals, assists, points, points per game (0.91), power-play goals, and power-play points.

He has also had 14 multi-point games so far this season (second most on the Canucks), highlighted by his first-career NHL hat trick and season-high four-point game against Anaheim on Nov. 3.

A native of Yakutsk, Russia, Kuzmenko spent his first eight professional seasons in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) with CSKA Moscow and SKA St. Petersburg, getting 200 points (85-115-200) in 315 regular-season games. He set career highs in goals (20), assists (33), and points (53) last season, ranking second in the league in scoring.

Kuzmenko has also represented his country on the international stage on multiple occasions, totaling 16 points (10-6-16) and six penalty minutes in 37 games played. He was originally signed by Vancouver to a one-year, entry-level contract on July 13, 2022.