The New York Islanders became the first NHL team to hit 19 wins with a 2-1 triumph over the Ottawa Senators on Thursday night at Canadian Tire Centre.
Thomas Hickey set up Casey Cizikas for the game winner with 6:27 to play in the third period as the Islanders won for the 13th time in 15 tries. In the process, the Islanders swept their home-and-home set with the Sens while goaltender Jaroslav Halak set a new franchise record with his 11th straight win.
“[Hickey] found me back door with a nice pass,” Cizikas said. “I was able to get it off quick enough. Great vision on his part.”
Hickey pinched off the blue line, faked a slap shot and found Cizikas with a cross-ice pass in the slot. Cizikas made no mistake, burying his fourth of the season for the eventual winner, while Hickey extended his point streak to three games (one goal, three assists). Hickey also played a team-high 24:30, largely because the Islanders played without three of their top-six defensemen.
“Now he’s getting that opportunity to be that guy and he’s taking full advantage of it,” Cizikas said of Hickey. “He’s a great player and it’s nice to see him doing as well as he is. He’s a big part of our defense.”
The Islanders depth came through in a solid defensive effort, holding the Senators to 21 shots and only a handful of quality scoring chances.
“The one thing I liked about our team right now is our depth,” Head Coach Jack Capuano said. “When called upon they do the job.”
Halak did his part too, making 20 saves in the record-setting win. The Islanders goaltender wasn’t busy through 40 minutes, but saw – and stopped – 12 shots in the third period.
“The guys have been playing pretty well,” Halak said. “I wouldn’t be winning too many games without everybody leaving everything out there. It was a slow game again, like last time, but I’m happy we were able to hold onto it.”
Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson hit the crossbar in the dying seconds of the contest, but that was as close as the Senators would come. Senators’ goalie Craig Anderson made 23 saves in the loss.
Brock Nelson opened the scoring with a power-play goal midway through the game. Frans Nielsen drew the Senators attention behind the net, before sending a sly pass out to Nelson in front for the tap in. Nelson’s power-play goal was his team-leading 12th of the season and broke a 0-for-9 slump for the Islanders man advantage.
The Senators tied the score on their own powerplay just over three minutes later. With the Islanders down two men, Mika Zibanejad put a one-timer through Halak’s five-hole. The Islanders goaltender got a piece of the shot, but not enough as the teams finished the period tied at one.
The Islanders roster had a different look Thursday, as Michael Grabner returned to the lineup after missing the start of the season recovering from hernia surgery. Grabner skated 13:11 with two shots, two penalty minutes, and one breakaway. Josh Bailey and Cal Clutterbuck both missed the game with lower-body injuries.
The Islanders look for their 14th win in 16 games when they host the St. Louis Blues Saturday afternoon at Nassau Coliseum. Puck drop is at 1 p.m.