Anders Nilsson's second NHL game went much better than his debut back in November.
More than three months after allowing 5 goals on 36 shots against Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Swedish goaltender found himself back in the NHL and stopped all 24 shots he faced to lead the New York Islanders
to a 1-0 victory against the New Jersey Devils
at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on Sunday afternoon.
The win allowed the Islanders (28-29-9) to move back within a game of the .500 mark and five points within eighth-place Winnipeg, which was idle Sunday. Kyle Okposo
had the lone goal for the Isles, who are now off until Thursday, when they'll play the second of three straight games against the Devils.
"I thank all the guys," Nilsson said. "They blocked a lot of shots and when a shot got through, it was from the boards. They made it really easy for me to play out there today."
Nilsson -- New York's third-round pick (No. 62) in 2009 -- was especially strong in the third period, when he was forced to make 12 saves after facing only a total of 12 shots through the first 40 minutes. He helped preserve the shutout with just under two minutes remaining in regulation, when he denied a wrister from Petr Sykora
"He showed a lot of poise," Isles coach Jack Capuano said of Nilsson, who is the reigning Goaltender of the Month in the AHL after going 6-0-1 for Bridgeport in February. "The first game he played was Sidney Crosby's (first) night back in Pittsburgh and all the hype. But I thought tonight he really handled himself well. He was aggressive. He had good angles and he gave us a chance to win a game tonight."
With the loss, New Jersey (36-24-5) was unable to move into fifth place in the Eastern Conference. The Devils remain tied with Philadelphia at 77 points apiece, although the Flyers now have two games in hand. New Jersey will host the Rangers on Tuesday before the Islanders visit Newark on Thursday. The Isles will then host the Devils again on Saturday night.
The big question for New Jersey heading into Tuesday will be the status of Zach Parise
. The Devils' captain took a shot from Milan Jurcina
off his left hand midway through the second period and was unable to use it as he undressed after the game, according to the Newark Star-Ledger.
"I hope not," Parise told the paper when asked if he was worried his hand was broken.
Okposo broke a scoreless tie with his 15th goal of the season at 2:39 of the second period, as he fought off Anton Volchenkov
and snapped a low shot past Martin Brodeur
"These guys played well … you have to give them credit," Brodeur said. "They played a solid game, but we didn't take advantage of them playing yesterday.
"We didn't create much. We had a couple of good chances in the second and one hit off the post. You've got to throw more pucks at a young guy. When you have six shots in the first, that's not a way to try to test a goalie, that's for sure."
Okposo's goal was assisted by rookie center Casey Cizikas
, his third assist in six games since being promoted from AHL Bridgeport.
"The first couple of games, they were a little bit nerve-racking," said Cizikas, a fourth-round draft choice (No. 92) in 2009. "I got caught a couple of times out there, trying to do a little too much. I've just kind of settled down."
In all, the Isles were credited with 27 blocked shots and did a solid job of getting into the shooting lanes. Their defensive play allowed them to secure back-to-back victories since the third week of January.
"That's how we have to play -- it's defense-first mentality," Capuano said. "Some of the teams we've played as of late are big and we know they're going to have some extended zone time. I thought we kept them outside the (faceoff) dots. Anders made some saves when we needed him to."
Material from wire services and team media was used in this report.