Anders Nilsson turned in a 24-save shutout to earn his first career NHL win, as the New York Islanders beat the New Jersey Devils, 1-0, on Sunday in front of a sold out crowd at Nassau Coliseum.
Kyle Okposo scored the game's only goal at 2:39 of the second period, as the Islanders won back-to-back games for the first time in more than a month. Making his second career NHL start and third appearance, Nilsson made half of his saves in the third period against the Devils' frantic attack.
“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.”
The Islanders blocked 27 shots, but gave the AHL goalie of the month for February credit for the win.
“I don’t think he was ever out of position once,” Okposo said. “When you practice with a guy like that and struggle to score in practice, you know that he has some talent. Tonight he showed it.”
On his 15th goal of the seaon, Okposo pushed his way through several Devils before snapping a shot along the ice past Martin Brodeur's outstretched pad. It was Okposo's second goal in three games and Casey Cizikas recorded his third assist in that same span.
“I was trying to walk off out of the corner,” Okposo said. “There were a bunch of sticks around there, so once I got a good handle on it, I just fired it.”
The Islanders strung together back-to-back wins for the first time since Jan. 21 and did so against two of the Eastern Conference’s top eight teams in Boston and New Jersey.
“I would say that we are focused,” Jack Capuano said. “It’s about focus, attention to detail and having the passion and desire to play every single night. We had some energy tonight and that carried over [from Saturday’s 3-2 win over Boston].”
The Devils gave the Islanders five power plays to work with on Sunday, including 5-on-3 and 4-on-3 opportunities. The Isles could not convert, but had several quality chances that saw the puck roll behind Brodeur before fluttering wide of the post. Brodeur made 24 saves in the loss and fell to 0-2 against the Isles this season.
After playing three games in four days, the Islanders have three days off before renewing acquaintances with the Devils on Thursday at Prudential Center. Sunday was the first of three games in seven days between the division foes.
“It’s obviously tough to beat teams twice in a row, let alone three times in a row,” Okposo said. “We are going to have to be prepared for the next 120 minutes.”
The next chapter in the trilogy goes Thursday night at 7 p.m.