Halak stops 50 shots, Islanders beat Rangers 3-0
Jaroslav Halak had a season-high 50 saves for his first shutout of the season in a 3-0 victory over the Rangers on Thursday night.
Halak was masterful as the Islanders beat the Rangers for the third time in three meetings this season, and 10th of the last 11. Josh Bailey, Jordan Eberle and Thomas Hickey each scored and rookie sensation Mathew Barzal had three assists to help the Islanders move into a tie with Columbus one point behind Carolina for the second wild card in the Eastern Conference.
''This felt like a playoff atmosphere. It was intense,'' the 20-year-old Barzal said. ''And Jaro has been our backbone. He made a lot of key saves. That was a must-win for us.''
Halak, who faced 51 shots in a 4-1 home loss to Columbus on Tuesday night, had 15 saves in the first period, 14 in the second and another 21 in the third for his 42nd career shutout.
Halak's effort was the most saves for any goaltender this season in a shutout and one shy of the franchise record set by Glenn Healy on Jan. 16, 1990, against Vancouver.
Halak said weariness is not a factor despite the barrage of shots he has faced in recent games.
''I feel fine. It's all about managing between games and getting enough rest,'' said the 32-year-old netminder who improved to 18-18-4 this season.
Henrik Lundqvist finished with 32 saves for the Rangers, who have lost six of eight overall and dropped to 0-4-1 in five visits to Barclays Center since the Islanders moved to the Brooklyn arena in 2015. The Rangers remained four points behind the Hurricanes, who lost at New Jersey.
The Rangers are 3-9-0 in their last 12 games as expectations grow they will make significant moves by the Feb. 26 trade deadline.
''Last few weeks, slowly we are moving in the wrong direction not getting enough points,'' Lundqvist said. ''The way things are going, it's hard for us to score goals.''
Bailey opened the scoring at 4:53 of first period with a power-play goal for his 15th goal of the season with Rangers defenseman Brady Skjei in the penalty box for tripping.
''Getting the lead on the power play was nice and obviously Jaro was good,'' Islanders coach Doug Weight said. ''It feels really good for him. Hopefully we can build on that.''
Eberle made it 2-0 at 15:06 of the second when fired a loose puck past Lundqvist for his 20th. Nick Leddy got his second assist of the game on the goal.
Hickey increased the lead to 3-0 at 3:57 of the third period with his third goal of the year on which Barzal recorded his third assist of the night.
''Their goaltender has played extremely well against us. Tonight we had a real strong game and we weren't able to get anything past him,'' Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. ''I didn't like the results but we worked real hard and did a lot of good things out there.''
Barzal has nine assists in his last four games and 25 points in last 17 contests. The 20-year-old center has 16 goals and 46 assists for 62 points, most among rookies this season. He also has three goals and six assists in the three games against the Rangers.
''Mathew is a great talent. He made some really great plays and certainly contributed to the win,'' Weight added. ''We'll take it.''
NOTES: The Rangers have scored two goals or fewer in eight of last 12 games. ... The teams meet again Brooklyn on April 5. ... The Islanders scratched F Jason Chimera for the first time this season. He was replaced by Tanner Fritz. ... The Islanders also scratched F Alan Quine and D Sebastian Aho. ... The Rangers scratched F Paul Carey and injured D Ryan McDonagh. .... The Rangers were also without injured forwards Chris Kreider and Pavel Buchnevich and defensemen Marc Staal and Steven Kampfer. .... Hickey's goal gave him 100 points for his career.
Rangers: At Ottawa on Saturday.
Islanders: At Carolina on Friday night.