OTTAWA — Chances to do his stuff have been few and far between for veteran goalie Jaroslav Halak, but the New York Islanders goalie made the most of one he got on Saturday night.
Making only his third start in the past 10 games, Halak stopped 31 shots as the Islanders defeated the slumping Ottawa Senators 2-1 at Canadian Tire Centre.
It was the third consecutive victory for the Islanders (14-7-2), who have also won six of their last seven with goalie Thomas Greiss doing most of the work between the pipes.
“I just tried to stop the puck and put it to the corner,” said Halak, who improved his record to 6-5-0. “When there was something (loose), the guys were scrambling and getting the pucks for me.”
After a scoreless first period, Anders Lee put the Islanders on the board and Jordan Eberle increased the lead to 2-0 before Matt Duchene scored his first as a Senator with 4:21 remaining on the clock.
“Lately we’ve been down early in the games, 1-0, 2-0 after the first period, so I just wanted get through the first period and build off it,” said Halak. “They got that late goal. Unfortunate for us. They felt like they had a chance to come back. I think we did a good job not panicking and keeping the pucks out of our zone.”
The Senators (8-8-6) lost for the sixth time in a row, a span in which they have scored just eight goals. They are now 0-5-1 since returning from a two-game trip to Sweden.
“It’s hard to look at this and say we lost this game,” said coach Guy Boucher, pointing to the fact the Senators led 32-24 on the shot clock. “We definitely deserved better. Right now, it’s not about the effort. It’s clearly a total effort from all the players from beginning to end. Guys are sticking together.
“We’ve just got to continue pushing. We’re right there. We were there last game and we’re right there now.”
Meanwhile, impatience is creeping into the Ottawa dressing room.
“Good is not going to cut it for us,” said captain Erik Karlsson. “We need to find a way to win a game. And when we do, we’ve got to hope we can build off that and go on a stretch the other way, because right now, it’s obviously not pointing in the way we want.”
Lee’s goal, his 12th of the season, was off a deflection on an Islander power play, while Eberle scored on a redirection from the slot.
“I thought we played a really great game defensively and Jaro was stellar,” said Lee. “We haven’t really seen a 1-0, 2-0 game tight until the end all year, really. It’s always nice to win the tight ones and any time a team can put a push at the end that we can withstand their pressure and get the win.”
Duchene’s goal represented his first point in eight games since being acquired by the Senators from the Colorado Avalanche.
“Nice to get the monkey off, but it feels good, not great, because we didn’t get the result we wanted,” he said. “We played a heck of a hockey game. We felt like we deserved better. We’re doing everything right but scoring.”
Making his second start in 24 hours and third in four days was Craig Anderson, who stopped 22 shots. Anderson asked to play and Boucher, who normally gives each of his goalies a start in back-to-back situations, relented.
“Last game, I felt my game was right there, 2-2 halfway through the third period and I felt like I wanted to redeem myself and try to give our guys a chance to win,” said Anderson “If you don’t want to be in the net, you don’t belong in this league.”
The Islanders lost center Casey Cizikas when he limped off the ice in the second period but while there was no update on the injury, coach Doug Weight said it was a good sign that he tried to play a shift or two in the third.
“We’ve been putting up a lot of goals, but it’s good to get those 2-1 wins,” said Weight. “They build for you down the road. That was a desperate hockey team so that was a big win for us.”
NOTES: Senators LW Zack Smith returned to the lineup after missing six games with a broken thumb. ... Senators D Thomas Chabot and F Nick Paul were scratched. ... Islanders scratches were D Dennis Seidenberg, D Ryan Pulock and LW Anthony Beauvillier. ... The Islanders return home to play two at home, on Tuesday against the Vancouver Canucks and Friday against the Senators. ... The Senators play their next six on the road, starting with Wednesday’s game in Montreal.