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Islanders top Senators for Halak's 10th straight win

by Brian Compton

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- The New York Islanders opened the month of the December much like they wrapped up November: with a win.

Defenseman Thomas Hickey scored with 1:54 remaining in overtime and Jaroslav Halak tied an Islanders record with his 10th straight victory in a 3-2 win against the Ottawa Senators at Nassau Coliseum on Tuesday.

Hickey, whose wraparound hit the skate of Ottawa defenseman Cody Ceci and deflected past Senators goalie Craig Anderson, helped the Islanders improve to 8-0 in games that go past regulation. They are 3-0 in overtime and 5-0 in shootouts.

With the win, the Islanders (18-7-0), who won 11 of 14 games in November, kept pace with the Pittsburgh Penguins atop the Metropolitan Division. The Islanders and Senators will wrap up their home-and-home series Thursday at Ottawa.

"I came around the net there and there's bodies going to the net and I just threw it blind, to be honest," Hickey said. "Maybe it got a bounce off something, I'd have to see it again.

"We talk about doing that; that's how a lot of goals are scored, just throwing it and getting lucky and have guys going there. A lucky bounce and a big point."

Halak, who made 16 saves, matched the record of 10 straight wins set by Hockey Hall of Fame goalie Billy Smith in 1982. He promises it hasn't been as easy as he's made it appear at times during the past month.

"It's never easy. You can try, I can give you my gear," Halak joked. "It's always a different challenge. Every game is a different challenge, every opponent. Tonight was a weird game. We got two points, but I'm sure everybody knows that we can play better. I know that we'll play better on Thursday."

As for matching Smith with his 10th straight win, Halak spread the credit around the dressing room.

"[Records] are always nice, but it's a team effort," he said. "It's not only me."

The Senators (10-9-5) managed to get a point, but they experienced difficulty maintaining time in the offensive zone for much of the game. Anderson made several key saves early and finished with 25, but he hasn't won since Nov. 13, a 4-3 overtime victory against the Edmonton Oilers. He has allowed 14 goals on 142 shots in four starts since. The Senators finished their five-game road trip with a record of 1-3-1.

"We have to be smarter. Andy made key saves to keep us in all night," said Senators forward Clarke MacArthur, who scored the tying goal with 8:46 remaining in the third period. "We just need to have better puck management. It's good to get a point, but bittersweet to lose in overtime."

Ottawa struck first on Mike Hoffman's eighth goal of the season 10:02 into the game. With the teams at even strength, Mika Zibanejad sent a pass from the left-wing boards to the middle of the ice where Hoffman fired a slap shot from inside the point that beat Halak cleanly. It was Hoffman's first goal since Nov. 13, when he scored twice against Edmonton.

Anderson preserved the lead with 1:05 left in the first when he robbed Islanders forward Ryan Strome from point-blank range. After he denied Anders Lee's one-timer from the left circle, Anderson left a rebound in front that Strome collected and tried to roof, but Anderson gobbled it up to keep Ottawa in front.

However, the Islanders finally solved Anderson with 1:34 remaining in the second period. Kyle Okposo backhanded a puck from center ice into the Senators' zone that hopped over the stick of Ceci. Brock Nelson blew past Ceci, skated in alone and roofed a wrist shot over Anderson's right shoulder to make it 1-1. It was Nelson's 11th goal of the season.

The Islanders nearly took a one-goal lead into the second intermission. With time winding down, Casey Cizikas ripped a slap shot from inside the left point that hit Anderson up high and trickled over the goal line, but replays showed the puck crossed about one-tenth of a second too late.

The Senators were held to 11 shots on goal through the first 40 minutes.

"They've been playing good lately," Ottawa captain Erik Karlsson said of the Islanders. "They're a tough team, they play a really good pace. They're hard on pucks every shift. It's tough to play against them and you've got to play the same way. I think they did it for 60 minutes today and we did it for maybe 35. That's not good enough against teams like this. They're a hard-working team."

Strome gave the Islanders their first lead of the game 1:07 into the third period. With the teams skating 4-on-4, Hickey took a pass near the right side of the net from Brian Strait and swatted a shot that squeaked past Anderson but stayed in front of the goal line before Strome poked it across for his fifth goal of the season.

"If you look at our lineup, we've got so much depth, we've got guys that aren't even playing [much] that are great players," Strome said. "A lot of guys stepped up. Our fourth line plays just as much as every other line. We've got a resilient group."

The Senators forced OT on MacArthur's goal. Islanders defenseman Calvin de Haan was double-teamed behind the net and the puck sprung loose for Mark Stone, who fed it in front to MacArthur for an easy one-timer. It was MacArthur's ninth goal of the season.

That was good enough for one point, but not two.

"It's not very satisfying, that's for sure," Stone said of the road trip. "We had expectations for this trip to come in and to get three [wins] out of five [games]. It's tough, but we're going home now. We need to generate some momentum in that game on Thursday going into the Christmas break."

Islanders defenseman Travis Hamonic left the game because of an upper-body injury with 15:35 remaining after being driven hard into the boards by Senators forward Chris Neil. Hamonic was slow to get up and skated to the bench before heading to the dressing room. He returned briefly but left again with less than five minutes to go. Right wing Cal Clutterbuck left during the second period with a lower-body injury. New York was already without defensemen Johnny Boychuk and Lubomir Visnovsky because of upper-body injuries.

New York coach Jack Capuano said his three injured defensemen are day-to-day; Clutterbuck is also day-to-day and will be re-evaluated Wednesday. If Clutterbuck can't play Thursday, there's a good chance Michael Grabner will make his season debut. Grabner had preseason hernia surgery and has been practicing but hasn't played.

"We feel like we've got the depth that can do the job," Capuano said. "You lose three of your top-four guys, that's tough on the back end. Guys stepped up and played pretty well.

"There's gonna be injuries, but it gives other guys an opportunity."

Senators right wing Bobby Ryan missed his second straight game because of a broken finger. He participated in the morning skate and hoped to play if he could withstand the pain.

Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL

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