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Gibson makes 50 saves as Isles snap eight-game skid with win over Flames

Islanders goalie Christopher Gibson, looks on as Calgary

Islanders goalie Christopher Gibson, looks on as Calgary Flames' Matthew Tkachuk swipes at a rebound on March 11, 2018. Credit: AP/Jeff McIntosh

CALGARY, Alberta — As the four-game, 10-day, three-time-zone, two-nation road trip wore on, the Islanders began to talk less about their fading playoff hopes and more about simply winning a game. Any game, any way. Just one.

On Sunday night, it finally happened.

The Islanders defeated the Flames, 5-2, at the Scotiabank Saddledome to snap their losing streak at eight games. They had not won since Feb. 16, going 0-4-4 while other wild-card contenders such as the Blue Jackets and Panthers continued to win.

Even though his team was outshot 52-27, Doug Weight was in no mood to quibble. The Flames controlled play in the second and third periods, outshooting the Isles 38-17.

“We had to get a win,” Weight said. “Not too much critiquing going on. Just excited to get a win.”

The man most responsible was goalie Christopher Gibson, who made 50 saves and earned his second NHL victory and first since the 2015-16 season.

Gibson became the second rookie goalie in Isles history to make at least 50 saves in a game. Billy Smith made 55 saves in Philadelphia on Nov. 22, 1972 in a 5-3 loss. The Flyers had 60 shots on goal in that game.

In Gibson’s two previous starts this season — both on the long trip — he lost in overtime to the Penguins and in a shootout to the Oilers. Mostly, he credited his teammates after stopping 37 of 38 shots in the final two periods Sunday.

Was he not exhausted after his effort? “We could play another game, let’s put it that way,” he said. “I could go another game.”

That was not necessary, but Gibson surely will get more opportunities in the final 13 games.

Anders Lee, who scored two goals, said he knew Gibson had talent but added that his early poise under pressure has been “a wonderful surprise.”

The victory came with a bonus for the Islanders: It was a setback for the Flames in a tight race for a wild-card playoff spot in the Western Conference.

If the Flames fall short, it will enhance the value of the first-round draft pick the Islanders acquired from Calgary in the Travis Hamonic trade.

The Islanders led 3-1 after an eventful first period. They scored three times on their first seven shots against Flames goalie Mike Smith, making his first start since suffering a lower-body injury against the Islanders exactly a month earlier.

It began with goals 18 seconds apart by defensemen Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk at 2:14 and 2:32. “It’s been a demoralizing few weeks here, and we had to dig deep,” Lee said. “That kind of energy at the beginning of the game really helps.”

Johnny Gaudreau cut the Isles’ lead to 2-1 at 7:23 of the first, but Jordan Eberle scored off the rebound of his own shot at 10:25. Lee made it 4-1 at the 50-second mark of the second period off the rebound of Boychuk’s slap shot.

The Flames made it 4-2 at 7:24 of the third when Gibson lost track of the puck behind him. As it trickled toward the goal line, Mark Giordano poked it in, although it looked as if Gibson himself might have knocked it in. Lee scored into an empty net in the final minute.

Said Boychuk, “It’s like something’s got to give, especially if you just keep doing the right things. We know we’re in a corner and we have to win as many games as we can.”

One was a start.

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