The New York Islanders played a solid, 60 minute game and got past the Nashville Predators 3-1 at the Nassau Coliseum Tuesday. Kevin Poulin made 32 saves to earn the win while John Tavares, Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Kyle Okposo scored the Islanders goals. Frans Nielsen had two assists for the Isles.
“The guys came out with a solid effort tonight,” Isles’ coach Jack Capuano said. “We got good goaltending and special teams. It was a total team effort. We had guys making second and third efforts and blocking shots, especially in the third period when they made a push. I thought our best players were our best players.”
The Islanders were determined to start quickly and dominated play for most of the first period. The Islanders forecheck had the Predators on their heels and made Nashville look disorganized at times in the opening stanza.
“We really wanted to step forward from the road trip,” admitted defenseman Andrew MacDonald. “We got poor results [on the road trip], not what we wanted and that was a great way for us to show we’re putting it behind us. I think this team came out with a great start.”
The Islanders pressured goalie Marek Mazanec who was making his first career NHL start, throughout the first period. New York managed 16 shots on goal in the opening 20 minutes but didn’t get on the scoreboard until Nielsen found Tavares all alone between circles on the power play. The Islanders’ captain took his time and calmly slid the puck into the net behind Mazanec to make it 1-0 with 4:30 remaining in the first period.
Bouchard made it 2-0 less than two minutes later when he beat Mazanec short side from a tough angle down low beneath the circle. Again, Nielsen drew the only assist on the goal and the Isles held two-goal lead after 20 minutes of play.
Throughout the first period, the Islanders were the aggressors. They cycled well and kept the puck bottled up in the Predators’ zone for long stretches of time. The result was three power play chances as the visitors struggled to contain a strong and consistent Islanders’ attack.
The Islanders continued to control the tempo of the game throughout the second period and increased their lead to 3-0 at 7:07 when Tavares made a pretty pass to Okposo who beat Mazanec on a one-timer.
“The defense came over to me at the last second,” Tavares explained. “So I just tried to make him commit. I thought I made the goalie come out pretty far and with the shot Kyle has I thought it was the right play to give us the best opportunity to put it in.”
In the third period, the Predators played better and managed 12 shots on goal but the Islanders defense did a good job of keeping Nashville on the perimeter and limiting their quality chances. Patric Hornqvist managed to end Poulin’s shutout bid with 5:30 left in the third period but the Predators would get no closer.
Poulin was pleased with his performance after getting rare back-to-back starts. “I’ve been playing a lot in the past week. I’m feeling comfortable out there, I’m seeing the puck really good and reading the plays really well and my movement is fluid.”
Overall, this was the best team defense the Islanders have played in a while and it paid off tonight as they ended their four-game losing streak. “We were quick and physical in the defensive zone and Kevin [Poulin] obviously played very well,” MacDonald said. “Whenever we were able to be physical down low and separate them from the puck we did it. On the other side of the ice, we made good puck decisions at the blue line and got pucks behind their defensemen. Obviously if the puck is in their zone, they can’t score.”
The Islanders will try to build on this solid performance Thursday night when they host the Los Angeles Kings.
Attendance was 12,108.
Cal Clutterbuck returned to the Islanders lineup after missing three games due to an upper-body injury.
The Islanders had not beaten Nashville at the Nassau Coliseum since November 7, 2000.