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Halak makes 29 saves, Islanders shut out Flames

by Brian Compton

NEW YORK -- New York Islanders goaltender Jaroslav Halak played a total of 40 minutes in the preseason because of an upper-body injury, one that forced him to miss the first four games of the regular season.

Judging by how he's performed in his first four starts, you'd never know Halak was sidelined for most of training camp.

Halak made 29 saves for his second shutout of the season to help the New York Islanders to a 4-0 win against the Calgary Flames at Barclays Center on Monday.

Frans Nielsen had two goals, and Mikhail Grabovski and Cal Clutterbuck each scored for the Islanders (6-2-1), who are 4-1-1 at home. Kyle Okposo and Nikolay Kulemin each had two assists.

It was more than enough support for Halak, who is 3-1-0 with a 1.76 goals-against average and .940 save percentage.

"I think guys are doing a pretty good job out there as far as keeping [shots] on the outside," Halak said. "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."

Joni Ortio made 31 saves for the Flames (2-7-0). Calgary has lost the first two games of its three-game road trip, which concludes Wednesday at the Ottawa Senators.

"We need to be consistent," Flames coach Bob Hartley said. "That's one thing … this league is too good to pick and choose when you're going to be good."

The Islanders had the better of the chances in a scoreless first period, when they outshot the Flames 14-8. Casey Cizikas had a chance from between the circles 5:36 into the game when his wrist shot hit the crossbar. Anders Lee nearly scored in the final minute when he tried to stuff the puck under Ortio, but it never crossed the goal line.

New York finally broke through when Grabovski scored on a power play 14:01 into the second period. After Flames defenseman Dougie Hamilton was penalized for shooting the puck over the glass, Johnny Boychuk sent it around the net, and Josh Bailey collected it along the left-wing boards. Bailey quickly sent it to Grabovski between the circles, and Grabovski shot it past Ortio to give the Islanders a 1-0 lead with his second goal in as many games.

Each team had 10 shots on goal in the second period.

Halak preserved the shutout early in the third when he got across the crease to get his right pad on Mark Giordano's shot from the left circle after a cross-ice feed from Sam Bennett.

"He's played well," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said of Halak. "He made some big saves for us when we needed them. I thought we did a real good job, especially in the first and midway through the third, we held them in check pretty good. We got beat off the wall a couple of times, they had a couple of chances, but I thought our D-zone was really good tonight. We limited their chances.

"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."

Nielsen extended the Islanders' lead with his second goal of the season at 5:26 of the third. With the teams at even strength, Nielsen took a pass from Kulemin and let go a wrist shot from the right circle that fooled Ortio to make it 2-0.

Clutterbuck scored his third goal of the season at 11:33 of the third. Cizikas made a terrific play along the right-wing boards, outworking Flames defenseman Kris Russell before sending the puck to the slot. Clutterbuck gathered the pass and ripped a wrist shot past Ortio.

It was a reward for the play of the Islanders' fourth line of Clutterbuck, Cizikas and Matt Martin, which frustrated the Flames for most of the game.

"We're three pretty similar type of players," Clutterbuck said. "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."

Nielsen scored his second of the game at 18:10 when Kulemin retrieved Okposo's rebound and gave him a cross-ice pass. Okposo quickly put a wrist shot on net that Nielsen redirected past Ortio to make it 4-0. The goal was originally credited to Okposo but was awarded to Nielsen after the game.

"In the third, we just weren't good enough," Giordano said. "We started opening up, and that's when the game got away from us."

Calgary was 0-for-3 on the man-advantage. New York has killed off 21 consecutive shorthanded situations and ranks first in the NHL at 91.2 percent efficiency.

"Last season, we started off really bad," Halak said of the penalty kill. "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."

The Islanders played without defenseman Thomas Hickey, who sustained a lower-body injury during an overtime win at the St. Louis Blues on Saturday. Hickey is expected to miss at least one month, according to Newsday.


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