No one’s calling it a goaltending controversy just yet. But what’s most important for the Islanders right now is results, and one thing is clear: Thomas Greiss is getting them and Jaroslav Halak is not.
Greiss again was rock-steady Monday afternoon, stopping 28 Red Wings shots in the Islanders’ 4-1 win before a sellout crowd at Barclays Center. That’s three straight victories for the Islanders with Greiss in goal and 17 goals scored in those wins. Halak, who was pulled after allowing six goals in two periods on Saturday in Raleigh, has won once in his last five starts and was pulled twice.
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“You need timely saves, timely goals, and we got a few of those today,” said Greiss, who has won 16 of his 22 starts this season and sports a .931 save percentage, tied for third in the NHL among goaltenders with at least 20 starts. “We didn’t do much of anything right on Saturday, and that’s not on Jaro. It’s always a team game.”
After the Islanders let down Halak in getting strafed by the Hurricanes on Saturday, the 20 skaters in front of Greiss were sharp and patient Monday.
Both teams had a few chances in a scoreless first period, but the Islanders broke through on Jimmy Howard in the second.
After a great shot block by Marek Zidlicky denied a good Red Wings chance, the Islanders went down the other way. Brock Nelson batted down Ryan Strome’s flip pass with a near-high stick and Howard turned that try aside, but Nelson swept the rebound off Howard and in at 8:24. It was Nelson’s 21st goal, tying him with John Tavares for the team lead.
On a power play later in the second, Howard stopped Johnny Boychuk’s slapper, but Josh Bailey pounced on the rebound for a 2-0 edge.
Zidlicky, back in the lineup after missing three straight games as a healthy scratch, picked up a puck that caromed off the end boards and backhanded one past Howard at 16:03.
It was the third straight home game in which the Islanders took a 3-0 lead. Greiss was in net for all of them.
“Our execution has been really good and our defensive game has been solid. That’s been leading to offense,” Kyle Okposo said. “We really limited their opportunities today and Greisser was there when we needed him.”
Pavel Datsyuk ended Greiss’ shutout at 9:31 of the third period, but a nifty feed from Tavares on the rush found Strome through a crowd, and he scored at 12:14 for the clincher.
Jack Capuano has alternated starts for Greiss and Halak the past five games. Each will get a shot in the Islanders’ next two, at home against the Capitals on Thursday night and on the road against the Devils on Friday night. But after that, Greiss might get the edge. Capuano even hinted that J-F Berube, still on the roster as a possible goaltender of the future, might get time.
“When you’ve got a hot goaltender, you want to play him,” Capuano said without tipping his hand on a future rotation. “With the amount of games we have, all three guys could get opportunities here.”
But it’s Greiss, who signed a two-year, $3-million deal in July to be Halak’s backup, who has the hottest hand right now.