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Zidlicky, Greiss help Islanders shut out Devils

by John Kreiser

NEW YORK -- The New York Islanders were a perfect 10 on Sunday.

Defenseman Marek Zidlicky scored two goals and the Islanders extended their point streak to 10 games with a 4-0 victory against the New Jersey Devils at Barclays Center.

Seven of the first nine games of the streak were decided by one goal; the other two were one-goal games until the Islanders scored on an empty net. But though they were playing the second of back-to-back games after a 3-2 overtime win at the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday, the Islanders jumped on the Devils quickly and didn't let up.

"We wanted to establish our game early," said Islanders captain John Tavares, whose first-period goal made it 2-0. "For whatever reason, we had our legs right off the get-go, and we were able to sustain it. We were able not only to come out hard but to keep it going for a full 60 [minutes]."

Thomas Greiss made 27 saves for his first shutout in nearly two years, and Matt Martin scored for the Islanders (18-8-5), who moved past the New York Rangers into second place in the Metropolitan Division.

The Islanders are 8-0-2 in their past 10 games, 7-0-2 within their division and 11-4-2 in their new home. It was the first time in six games they did not go past regulation.

The shutout was the first for Greiss since Jan. 28, 2014, when he was playing for the Phoenix Coyotes. The Islanders signed Greiss during the summer to back up Jaroslav Halak, but he's played in 14 of New York's 31 games, going 9-3-2 with a 2.03 goals-against average and a save percentage of .933.

His single-season career-high for appearances is 25 with the Coyotes in 2013-14.

"It's always nice when you get to play a little more," he said. "It makes it easier; you're more in a groove, your timing is way better and you see the puck better."

Cory Schneider allowed three goals on 18 shots for the Devils (15-11-4) before being replaced by Keith Kinkaid. New Jersey was playing without its top two centers, Travis Zajac and Adam Henrique, who are out with injuries.

The Devils were unable to build on one of their best victories of the season, a come-from-behind 3-2 overtime win against the Detroit Red Wings on Friday.

"It was important for us to get off to a quick start; we didn't, and they took advantage," Devils captain Andy Greene said. "It's not acceptable. If we want to catch these teams that are ahead of us, we have to play well and get points.

"They played real well tonight, and we were not very good."

New York came out with much more jump from the opening faceoff and never let the Devils get into the game.

"I was looking for a game where we got our defense more involved," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. "It's been a while since we've done that."

The Islanders opened the scoring at 7:43 of the first period, one second after a boarding penalty to New Jersey's Kyle Palmieri expired. Zidlicky took a pass from Mikhail Grabovski and let go a straightaway slap shot that went through traffic and past Schneider. It was the second goal of the season for Zidlicky, who played for the Devils from 2012-15, and his first since New York's season-opener on Oct. 9.

"[Capuano] has tried to push us to be more offensive," Zidlicky said. "Some games we've scored only one goal or two goals. Tonight we controlled the puck most of the game. That's a good thing."

Tavares, who had gone four games without a point, made it 2-0 with at 11:53 with his first point in five games. Devils forward Stephen Gionta wiped out in his own zone trying to play Brock Nelson's backpass and put the puck on the stick of Kyle Okposo, whose shot-pass found Tavares at the right post for an easy tip-in. It was Tavares' 13th goal of the season and first since Dec. 2.

"I've had some games where it's been good and some where I have to be a lot better," Tavares said. "You get your opportunities, you've got to put them in. I probably could have had a couple more today.

"Physically I've felt pretty good these last two games, and that's made a big difference."

Martin made it 3-0 and ended Schneider's evening less than halfway through the second period. Calvin de Haan took a left-point slap shot that was deflected by Casey Cizikas and redirected into the net by Martin, who was credited with his third goal.

"It's not on his shoulders," Greene said of Schneider. "We were not very good in front of him. Coach was probably trying to change things up and try to spark us a little bit.

"We weren't there for them tonight, and they're always there for us. We have to be better."

The Islanders continued to dominate and extended their lead with 42.5 seconds remaining in the second period when Zidlicky capped a dominant shift by putting a slap shot from the right point past Kinkaid. Zidlicky became the first Islanders defenseman to score twice in a game since Andrew MacDonald did it against the St. Louis Blues on March 5, 2011.

"We grinded it out on back-to-back nights with a team that was sitting here waiting for us," Capuano said. "I give our guys a lot of credit.

"I've always said we're more consistent when we play a lot of hockey, and it was proved again tonight."

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