Evgeni Nabokov and the New York Islanders had four days to prepare for the Columbus Blue Jackets. On Sunday afternoon, they executed their game plan to a tee, shutting out the Blue Jackets 2-0 at Nassau Coliseum.
Nabokov made 41 saves, including 17 in the final frame, for his third shutout of the season and 58th of his career. The Islanders penalty kill was a perfect six-for-six and Nabokov stopped 11 shots over the six power-play opportunities.
“Your goaltender is obviously your best penalty killer,” head coach Jack Capuano said. “He made some big saves for us. We mismanaged the puck in the neutral zone a few times … but he was there for us.”
The Islanders conceded 41 shots, but limited the Jackets second and third opportunities. The Islanders defense kept a large portion of Columbus’ shots came to the outside. Cam Atkinson had Columbus’ best chance with six minutes to play, but Nabokov flashed the leather and came up with the save.
“I thought we limited the grade-A chances,” Capuano said. “They had a few, but the ones that they got were from breakdowns in the defensive-zone coverage. The game was really us managing the puck and the turnovers.”
Cal Clutterbuck’s 10th goal of the season, coming 13:26 into the first period, held up as the eventual game-winner. Clutterbuck scooped up a loose puck in the slot and fired it past Sergei Bobrovsky. Johan Sundstrom was credited with the secondary assist, earning his first NHL point in his fourth NHL game.
“Our forecheck was going pretty good and I just happened to get a puck in the slot,” Clutterbuck said. “There was some good, hard work by [Sundstrom] down there and [Frans Nielsen] in the slot to have the puck pop out for me. I just shot it.”
The teams played a relatively quiet second period, until Travis Hamonic electrified the Coliseum with an end-to-end rush, putting the Islanders up by two. The defenseman started a power-play rush behind the Islanders net, skated through an open seam in the neutral zone and split two defenders before burying high-blocker on the Jackets’ netminder.
“It was nice to see the ice open up,” Hamonic said. “It seemed like the defensemen overplayed both sides of the ice and protected the walls a little too much. I was fortunate to keep skating and it was a pretty big relief to get that one in.”
The win was the Islanders first against the Blue Jackets this season and put a speedbump in Columbus’ playoff drive. The Islanders wrapped up a four-game homestand with a 2-2-0 record.
The Islanders now head out on a two-game road trip, beginning in Raleigh on Tuesday night. Puck drop against the Carolina Hurricanes is at 7 p.m.
NOTES: Nabokov’s shutout was his first since Feb. 4 at Washington… The Islanders announced post game that they had agreed to terms with Eric Boulton on a one-year deal… Travis Hamonic led the Islanders with 24:05 TOI… Cal Clutterbuck led the Islanders with four shots… Matt Martin had a team-high seven hits.