GLENDALE, Ariz. — The way the New York Islanders begin their five-game trip out West, finishing it with three straight wins was quite rewarding.
Frans Nielsen scored the lone goal with 2:31 left in the third period, Jaroslav Halak made 19 saves, and the Islanders held on for a 1-0 win over the Arizona Coyotes on Nov. 8.
“I came in late to the offensive zone and just kind of sneaked in there trying to find an open spot,” Nielsen said. “It was great to see it go in.”
The Islanders (9-5) capped of the trip with an effort that included 16 blocked shots and five killed penalties. Arizona (6-7-1) had its three-game winning streak snapped.
New York went 0 for 3 on its power plays. The Islanders’ penalty-killing unit is 9-for-9 in the past two games, including a Nov. 6 win over the Los Angeles Kings.
New York dropped the first two games of its road swing: 5-0 at Colorado on Oct. 30, and 3-1 at San Jose on Nov. 1, then won at Anaheim, Los Angeles and Arizona.
“I told the guys they probably deserved better on this trip,” Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. Capuano said the penalty killing was about attention to detail.
“It was about good sticks, getting in lanes to deny them to get pucks to the net, having to sacrifice to block shots when you need to block them,” Capuano said.
Nielsen took a centering pass from Mikhail Grabovski, who had worked the puck behind the net, and fired a shot under goalie Mike Smith’s glove. Things got more hectic as the seconds ticked down.
The Coyotes got a late power play and pulled Smith in the final 90 seconds, but were unable to force overtime with a two-man advantage. Smith finished with 31 saves.
Smith, who struggled at the start of the season, has stopped 152 of 162 shots in his last five games.
“We found a way to keep ourselves in it,” Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. “We just needed somebody to make that play, to make that difference. Unfortunately, they got it at the end.”
Both teams had a power play in the closing minutes of the second period that produced several opportunities, but Smith and Halak were up to the task.
Smith turned and spread his legs to knock away John Tavares’ attempt at a far-post shot at close range with just under two minutes left in the period.
Each team killed off power plays in the first, too, and Smith made 11 saves overall in the period. Smith deflected a short-handed breakaway attempt by Cal Clutterbuck early in the third period.
“They blocked a lot of shots,” Coyotes forward Sam Gagner said. “They paid the price to win.”
(JOSE M. ROMERO)