Evgeni Nabokov made a show-stopping 45 saves, a season high, as the New York Islanders beat the Philadelphia Flyers 1-0 in a shootout Tuesday night at the Wells Fargo Center.
Nabokov’s play helped the Islanders to a .500 record as he stopped Danny Briere and Wayne Simmonds in the shootout.
“Nabby was outstanding,” Frans Nielsen said. “He won this game for us. We didn’t play well, but we battled hard and he took care of all the first shots and we made sure there were no rebounds. He was incredible.”
The Isles netminder played big in every period, stopping a potent Flyers power play, several breakaways and backing up an undermanned defensive corps. The Flyers outshot the Islanders 45-18 during the game and 16-3 in the third period. With his 305th win, Nabokov ties Billy Smith for 22nd on the all-time wins list and records the 52nd shutout of his career.
“I have no answer,” a speechless Nabokov laughed after the game when asked how he did it. “We stuck with the system, the boys were working their butts off and skating hard. It was five D for half of the game and they did a hell of a job.”
The Islanders were unable to solve Nabokov’s counterpart, Ilya Bryzgalov, who was also sharp when he needed to be. The Isles had several 2-on-1 chances early, but could not convert until Nielsen and John Tavares both scored in the shootout.
With Travis Hamonic and Milan Jurcina already out due the injury, the Isles defense took another blow as Dylan Reese fell awkwardly, hobbled off the ice and did not return. In Reese’s absence, the rest of the blue line had to play big minutes, led by Andrew MacDonald’s 29:19. The Islanders are 12-6-4 when MacDonald leads the team in ice time. Rookie Aaron Ness played 14:25 in his first NHL game and blocked two shots.
“With Hammer out, things are pretty tough,” Matt Martin said. “He’s such a good player and a big part of this team. I know if it were up to him, he’d have a cage on and be out there blocking shots.”
After losing 13 straight games at Wells Fargo Center, the Islanders have now won two straight in the City of Brotherly Love. Nabokov started both games and has stopped 85 shots, surrendering only one goal.
The Islanders are now 3-0-1 since the All-Star break and have fared well in games beyond 60 minutes. In their last eight overtime and shootout contests, the Isles are 6-2.
Having played two straight games passed 65 minutes, the Islanders look to win in regulation when they take on the Montreal Canadiens at Nassau Coliseum Thursday night. Puck drop is at 7 p.m.
UPDATE: After the game, it was announced that Dylan Reese suffered a knee injury and that he would be re-evaluated on Wednesday.
News broke during the game that Frans Nielsen had signed a contract extension. The Islanders confirmed the news via Twitter, adding that a formal annoucement would be made on Wednesday.