The New York Islanders played their strongest and most complete game of the year and blanked the visiting Colorado Avalanche 6-0 before 12,888 excited fans at the Nassau Coliseum. The win was the fourth in a row for the Islanders and improved their record on the season to 10-5-0.
Jaroslav Halak made 20 saves to earn his second shutout of the season while the Islanders had six different goal scorers in a balanced attack. How evenly distributed was the scoring for the home team? The Isles had one power play goal, one shorthanded goal, two scores by defensemen and members of all four lines found themselves on the score sheet.
The Islanders played so well, Avalanche forward Matt Duchene said after the game, “It’s beyond frustrating at this point. We’re like a deer in the headlights right now.”
The Isles were aggressive from the start of the game and took a 1-0 lead just 1:33 into the contest on a smart play by Johnny Boychuk. The veteran defenseman passed the puck hard off the boards and it bounced right into the slot area. Fellow defenseman Nick Leddy picked it up and put it behind embattled Avs goalie Semyon Varlamov.
“Johnny [Boychuk] made a great play,” Leddy said. “The guy was in the lane and he shot it off the end boards. It had some crazy bounces and found me and I put it in the back of the net.”
Anders Lee made it 2-0 on a power play goal less than four minutes later and the Islanders were in control to stay.
In the second period, Travis Hamonic scored to make it 3-0 on a goal set up by the smart play of captain John Tavares. “Johnny made a good play down the wall, he kind of sucked a couple of guys in and was able to pull that top side forward down a bit and gave me enough room to get my shot off,” Hamonic explained.
Frans Nielsen set up Nikolay Kulemin on a shorthanded breakaway that made it 4-0 Isles midway through the second period.
In the past, the Islanders have had issues protecting a lead but this team kept applying pressure to the Avs and successfully added to their advantage while outshooting the visitors 18-7 in the final 20 minutes of the game.
“That was something we definitely talked about,” Hamonic said. “We had a significant lead and we didn’t really want to give up anything. Maybe they had one or two looks in the third period but they didn’t have a ton of them.”
Casey Cizikas and Ryan Strome each scored their first goals of the year in the third period to provide the final 6-0 margin.
“It’s nice to see those guys get on the board. It’s good to get your first of the year and Ryan [Strome] has played very well, he’s made some great plays setting guys up,” Tavares said. “It’s always good to get that first one and he’s earned it. Same with Casey [Cizikas]. Those guys are energy players and when they contribute some goals, it’s nice.”
The final shots on goal were 46-20 Islanders and the game was one-sided from start to finish.
“That’s the most complete game we’ve played all season,” Hamonic added.
“It’s attention to detail. It’s the focus that we need to have every day in practice that leads to success in the games that we play,” head coach Jack Capuano said. “When we do the right things, we give ourselves a chance, if we don’t and we don’t manage the puck well, we’re going to make it tough for us.”
The Islanders are confident and pleased with their play, but they realize that despite the solid start to the season, they still have a long way to go.
“It’s great and I know it’s been four in a row but we still can get a lot better and as a group, we can’t be nearly satisfied,” Hamonic admitted. “We haven’t done anything yet. It’s still just 15 or 16 games into the season so as good as this feels now, we’ve got to regroup and we’ve got a big road trip coming up now against good teams.”
That road trip begins Friday night when the Isles travel to Florida to take on the Panthers.
Josh Bailey was still out of the lineup with an injured hand. He was described as “close” to being ready to return. Eric Boulton, Brian Strait and Matt Donovan were also scratches for the Isles.
Jiggs McDonald called the game on MSG, filling in for Howie Rose. The Isles are now 14-1-3 in the last 18 games Jiggs called for the team.
The last time the Islanders won at home on Veterans Day was November 11, 1978 when they defeated the Atlanta Flames 4-2.