John Tavares and the New York Islanders did just enough to get past the Calgary Flames.
Tavares scored twice to lead the Islanders to their third straight victory, 2-1 victory Friday night. New York (26-11-1) improved to 7-1-1 in its last nine games and kept pace with Pittsburgh atop the Metropolitan Division.
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"Obviously not a whole lot of offense tonight," Tavares said. "Just trying to play a good solid road game."
After Tavares opened the scoring eight minutes into the game, the score remained 1-0 until 12:16 of the third period when Tavares got the puck in the slot, fended off Deryk Engelland and fired his team-leading 17th goal through the pads of Jonas Hiller.
The Flames got a goal from Johnny Gaudreau with 3:25 left in the third period to get back within one, but could not tie it against Jaroslav Halak, who had 22 saves to win his seventh straight game and improve to 21-6-0.
"Guys played great. Everybody was back-checking, tracking back hard, we didn’t give up too much," Halak said. "It could have been perfect or better if they didn’t score, but a win is a win."
Calgary had its four-game winning streak snapped, and the Flames are 3-1-0 with two games left on a six-game homestand.
"They were just getting pucks first and outbattling us," Flames center Josh Jooris said. "That first period wasn’t the greatest and we got behind the 8-ball early."
The first game of 2015 for both teams looked more like the first game of the preseason for much of the night. It was devoid of any flow with both teams guilty of errant passes, numerous stoppages for icings and offsides and general sloppy play, especially in the first two periods.
"A pretty boring hockey game, to be honest with you," Islanders right wing Kyle Okposo. "But that said, that’s how we want to play on the road. We were half an inch off in the offensive zone and didn’t get quite as many chances as we’d have liked, but I thought we did a pretty good job of limiting theirs."
Calgary coach Bob Hartley saw the game in a similar way.
"I felt that our passing was not what it usually is — lots of bouncing pucks and pucks off the skates," Hartley said. "The first period, we were not there at all. We basically survived that first period. Then in the second, we got better. The third period, we got better. But our execution was not good enough."
Looking to tie the game, the Flames got back-to-back power plays early in the third period but were unable to take advantage against a New York penalty-killing unit ranked 29th in the NHL.
Calgary failed to generate a shot on the first chance and the best scoring chance of the second power play, Curtis Glencross’ setup of Sean Monahan, was stopped on a superb pad save by Halak.
"We need a lot more. We’re not happy about that," Monahan said. "Power plays are a big part of the game and that’s how you’ve got to win hockey games. When you have that man advantage, you have to find a way to bury one."
New York took a 1-0 lead eight minutes in, capitalizing on a two-minute two-man advantage. With Lance Bouma already in the penalty box for tripping, Matt Stajan was sent off on the ensuing faceoff for covering his hand on the puck.
Calgary killed off the first 45 seconds of the 5-on-3 without any troubles but once the Islanders got set up, they moved the puck around nicely and eventually, Ryan Strome fed a perfect pass through the top of the crease to Tavares, who one-timed a shot in the open side before Jonas Hiller could slide across.
On the verge of being shut out for the first time this season, the Flames finally showed some life when Gaudreau pounced on a loose puck in the slot and rifled in his 13th of the season.
But that was as close as they would get.
"I really believe that the Islanders showed us why they’re having such a great season," Hartley said.
NOTES: In two career games at the Saddledome, Tavares has four goals. He also scored twice in his only previous appearance four years ago. … The Flames shuffled their lines a little bit moving RW Joe Colborne onto a line with Monahan and Glencross and dropping David Jones to the fourth line alongside Stajan and Brandon Bollig. … LW Mason Raymond was a healthy scratch for Calgary for the second game in a row. … The Islanders’ record when scoring first improved to 14-8-1. However, they still have a better record when surrendering the first goal (12-3-0).