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Halak, Nielsen lift Islanders past Flyers in shootout

by Brian Compton

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Things are going so well right now for the New York Islanders that even when they don't score, they win.

Frans Nielsen and John Tavares converted in the shootout and the Islanders overcame Steve Mason's phenomenal 46-save performance in a 1-0 victory against the Philadelphia Flyers at Nassau Coliseum on Monday.

It was the fourth straight win for the Islanders (15-6-0), who outshot the Flyers 46-21 through a scoreless 65 minutes. Jaroslav Halak, who denied Scott Laughton and Claude Giroux in the shootout, recorded his third shutout of the season and has won his past seven starts.

The Islanders, who have won 15 of their first 21 games for the first time in team history, will look to make it five in a row Wednesday when they host the Washington Capitals in the first of a home-and-home series. With 30 points, the Islanders remain tied with the Pittsburgh Penguins atop the Metropolitan Division.

"We just kept going at him. I think that's all you can do is just stay with it and we felt we were playing well," Tavares said. "We felt like we were getting better as the game went on and obviously that's always a good sign. It takes past 65 minutes, you just stay with it and we're confident in our shooters and our goaltender's been a heck of a player over the past couple of weeks. We feel comfortable in any situation."

Mason sat in his stall with a towel around his neck and his hands on his head, wondering how in the world he could put forth such a performance and not come away with a win. But it was through no fault of his own. Despite the shootout loss, Mason was credited with his first shutout of the season. The Flyers (8-9-3) will visit the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday, when they will need to give their goaltender more support if they plan on leaving Motown with two points.

"We have to find a way to be better as a team," Mason said. "Just forget about it. It [stinks] to not be able to get the win and get the extra point, but we've got a big game against another conference rival. We have to make sure we put this behind us and get ready and refocused."

Mason kept the game scoreless with 12:35 remaining in the first period when he managed to glove Nielsen's rebound attempt from between the circles. Halak responded a few minutes later when he got his right pad on Sean Couturier's shorthanded breakaway chance.

"Obviously he played great for them," Halak said of Mason. "He [almost] stole one point from us. But it's hockey. I think we did a lot of good things tonight. We really shot the puck. We did everything the right way, it just didn't go in. One of those nights, but I'm glad we got the two points."

New York outshot Philadelphia 12-6 in the first period and 15-10 in the second. Mason's strong play continued into the third, when he denied Tavares on a wraparound and then quickly turned aside Kyle Okposo on the rebound.

"I felt right in a zone. I was seeing the puck right off the bat," Mason said. "It was just one of those nights where pucks hit you and they can't get away from you."

Okposo was robbed again with 1:40 left when he took a drop pass from Nikolay Kulemin and ripped a wrist shot from the right circle that Mason snared out of the air with his glove. It was the Islanders' 42nd shot of the game. They held a 43-20 advantage after 60 minutes.

"No matter what the score is or what the adversity that we're facing throughout our game or how the momentum's going, we're just going to continue to play that we know how to play," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. "I think our structure was good tonight. We did some good things. I really liked our third period, the way we managed the puck."

Mason's dazzling performance carried on into overtime when he gobbled up Johnny Boychuk's redirection from right in front of the net off a feed from Nick Leddy 1:03 into the extra period.

Mason denied Okposo in the opening round of the shootout before Nielsen and Tavares solved him in the following rounds.

"Obviously the guy stood on his head," Flyers defenseman Andrew MacDonald said of his goalie. "He stole us a point single-handedly. They're a team that throws pucks on net and creates a lot of chaos. They're relentless on the forecheck and they do a really good job of jumping on rebounds and loose pucks.

"I don't think we really matched their intensity all night. Their transition game was much better than ours. [Mason] just stole us a point, and we're fortunate to have one."

The Islanders played without defensemen Calvin de Haan and Thomas Hickey, who were ill. They were replaced by Matt Donovan and Brian Strait. It was Donovan's season debut.

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