Isles’ Casey Cizikas falls while celebrating his goal against the Devils.
The way things are shaping up in the NHL’s Eastern Conference, playoff spots could be up for grabs right down to the very end of the season, and for the Islanders, there’s an opportunity in front of them to distinguish themselves from the pack.
The Isles rebounded from a Thursday overtime loss to the NHL-leading Capitals by starting their seven-game road trip with a 1-0 win over the Devils Friday night at Prudential Center as Jaroslav Halak made 27 saves in his third shutout of the season. He made his first start since allowing six goals in two periods last Saturday at Carolina.
“Obviously after a rough start I wasn’t feeling great, but you just have to forget about it,” said Halak, who backed up Thomas Greiss the previous two games. “There’s nothing you can do about the past.”
Jack Capuano started Greiss against Washington as he chose to ride the hot goalie, but the coach expected a rebound performance from Halak.
“He’s so hard on himself that he was probably frustrated a little bit,” Capuano said of Halak. “He’s always been a guy that’s played with confidence and poise, and he’s got a little attitude and swagger, and that’s what you need in a goaltender.”
Isles goalie Jaroslav Halak makes a glove save.
The Islanders (31-19-7, 69 points) truly hit the road Tuesday for a game in Minnesota, starting a five-game stretch in Western Conference arenas against teams currently out of the playoff picture. After Minnesota, they play Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver and Winnipeg before a March 6 game against the Rangers at the Garden. They pulled four points ahead of New Jersey (29-23-7) and three ahead of Pittsburgh.
Casey Cizikas scored the game’s lone goal 1:59 into the first when Nick Leddy’s shot from the left wing was saved by All-Star Cory Schneider (23 saves,) but the rebound deflected off of an oncoming Cizikas’ leg and in.
Johnny Boychuk played the third period after leaving with exactly five minutes left in the second with a shoulder stinger caused by a Jordin Tootoo cross-check into the end boards. Tootoo was assessed a major and given a game misconduct, but the Isles registered just one shot on goal during the five-minute power play.
Boychuck missed 11 games after injuring his left shoulder in Buffalo on New Year’s Eve.
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