TODAY'S PAPER
38° Good Afternoon
38° Good Afternoon
SportsHockeyIslanders

Casey Cizikas nets winner in third as Jaroslav Halak sets Isles' mark with 11th win in row

New York Islanders' Brian Strait, Thomas Hickey, Matt

New York Islanders' Brian Strait, Thomas Hickey, Matt Martin and Cory Conacher celebrate Casey Cizikas' goal during third-period NHL game action against the Ottawa Senators in Ottawa, Ontario, Thursday, Dec. 4, 2014. Photo Credit: AP / Fred Chartrand

KANATA, Ontario - It was Daniel Alfredsson's night to start. The Islanders took care of the rest of the evening.

The Senators honored Alfredsson with a poignant retirement ceremony before Thursday night's game, but his old team didn't get much done against a makeshift Islanders defense and Jaroslav Halak.

Halak made 20 saves and Casey Cizikas converted Thomas Hickey's nifty pass with 6:27 to go to break a tie and send the Islanders to a 2-1 win, their 13th victory in their last 15 games.

It was Halak's 11th straight win, knocking Billy Smith from the franchise record books.

The Islanders ended the night alone in first in the Metro Division and have the most wins, 19, of any team in the league.

"I looked up late in the second of the last couple games against these guys and there were single-digit shots against," Hickey said. "It's the way we need to play when we're not at our best -- minimal shots, few Grade A chances against. We have a great structure."

It doesn't seem to matter who's in or who's out. Travis Hamonic (upper body) joined Lubomir Visnovsky and Johnny Boychuk on the shelf, leaving the Islanders without three of their top four defensemen.

Two nights after allowing only 18 shots in their 3-2 overtime win over the Senators at the Coliseum, the Isles held them to the perimeter early and often, with Griffin Reinhart joining the defense.

The only slip was one that was referee-aided.

After Brock Nelson opened the scoring with his team-leading 12th goal, a power-play tally at 11:45 of the second period, Nelson went off for cross-checking at 13:53.

Just 43 seconds into the Senators' power play, Brian Strait tried a backhand clearing attempt and his stick clipped Kyle Turris on the follow-through. Referee Brad Watson whistled Strait for a high stick even though shot and pass follow-throughs are not penalties. Mika Zibanejad beat Halak through the pads on the five-on-three and the Islanders, despite allowing nine shots, ended the second period in a 1-1 tie.

There was no frustration carried over, however. "We didn't let it happen because we addressed it," coach Jack Capuano said. "You have to channel your energy the right way."

The third period turned on another timely foray deep into the offensive zone by Hickey. His drive around the net resulted in a good-bounce goal for the OT winner on Tuesday. Thursday night, he couldn't handle a feed from Cizikas, retrieved the puck and threaded a beauty of a pass to Cizikas, who beat Craig Anderson for the winner.

"He's getting the opportunity to be the guy with some other 'D' out and he's taking full advantage," Cizikas said.

Michael Grabner made his season debut and Cory Conacher, a healthy scratch the previous eight games, rotated in as Josh Bailey and Cal Clutterbuck sat out with minor injuries. That's three new players in the lineup from Tuesday -- and the Isles played the exact same game.

"The guys all understand the way we have to play," Capuano said. "We don't want to change our style no matter who's in or who's out."

Halak agreed. "Everybody knows his role," he said. "It's been a big key for us."

New York Sports