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Islanders win on Nielsen's goal, Halak blanks Coyotes

by Jerry Brown

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- New York Islanders center Frans Nielsen one-timed a Mikhail Grabvoski feed past Arizona Coyotes goalie Mike Smith with 2:31 left in the third period to give the Islanders a 1-0 win Saturday night.

The Islanders regrouped from losses to the Colorado Avalanche and San Jose Sharks to finish their five-game Western Conference road trip with three consecutive victories (3-2-0).

The shutout against the Coyotes followed one-goal wins against the Anaheim Ducks on Wednesday and Los Angeles Kings on Thursday, making the Islanders 6-1-0 in one-goal games and showing New York coach Jack Capuano the maturity he's seeking.

"To go into those buildings with the teams that they have and win, it builds confidence in your team and gives you the trust in one another," Capuano said. "To go up against top teams and compete with them for 60 minutes, that's what it's all about. Hopefully we can build on this."

Islanders goalie Jaroslav Halak made 19 saves for his first shutout of the season.

Halak had a lot of help in front of him. New York blocked 16 shots, with 13 Islanders credited with at least one. It seemed the Islanders were in the Coyotes' shooting lanes all night.

Arizona had a chance to tie the game on the power play after New York defenseman Brian Strait took down Shane Doan with 1:37 left in the third. But with Smith on the bench and the Coyotes working with a 6-on-4 advantage, they were unable to produce a shot on goal and saw their three-game winning streak come to an end.

"Guys did a really good job, especially with their sticks there at the end," Halak said. "A couple of passes could have gotten through, but guys had sticks in the lanes and they were ready. We were skating hard, blocking shots and we played a really good game for 60 minutes.

"Our penalty kill has been much better and more patient for a few games now. That's a big key in hockey now; it can change a game and it made a difference tonight."

Smith made 31 saves a night after he stopped 37 shots in a 3-2 shootout win against Anaheim. But the Coyotes, who returned to Arizona at 2:30 a.m. local time, appeared to be missing their jump on back-to-back nights, and the Islanders didn't give them any room to get going.

"You have to give them some credit, but we didn't have the normal zip that we have on our power play," said Arizona coach Dave Tippett, who tied Bob Francis for most games coached with the Coyotes at 390. "You're trying to give yourself a chance to win, even though you're coming into the game at a disadvantage. We did that for a lot of the game. We needed somebody to make that play to make that difference. Unfortunately, they got it.

"We're still making strides forward and certainly strides forward in Mike Smith's game. We're playing better as a group and hopefully we can take those positives and continue on next week."

The Coyotes had nine of their 19 shots on the power play, but came up empty against Halak on five chances with the man advantage.

"You have to find a way to get one," Arizona captain Shane Doan said. "We had enough power-play opportunities. We were close in a lot of areas, but pucks weren't bouncing in the right direction. You can't afford to do that and give them life.

"Smitty was really good, but it doesn't matter if you don't score. We need to find the balance between playing our game defensively and finding a way to generate offense."

The Islanders found just enough offense. Nielsen was stopped on a great set-up by Grabovski in the second period, but didn't miss when he got a second chance.

"[Grabovski] came in with a lot of speed around the net, and I came in late and tried to sneak in to find an open spot," said Nielsen, who has five goals and four assists in the first 14 games. "It was a great pass and it was good to see it go in. I was really able to step into the one earlier, but (Smith) made a good save."

The Islanders, who are 6-3-0 on the road, will take the six points on the five-game trip. But Capuano thought the effort deserved even better.

"In Colorado we have 40 shots and we don't score a goal. It's one of those nights," he said. "San Jose is a great game for us, probably one of the best games we've played all year. So the whole trip was really good for us. Now how do we build the momentum? We go home and do the job. It's crucial we improve our record in front of our home fans."

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