TODAY'S PAPER
Good Evening
Good Evening
SportsHockeyIslanders

Frans Nielsen has become one of NHL's best at shootouts

Frans Nielsen of the Islanders celebrates his first

Frans Nielsen of the Islanders celebrates his first period goal against the Boston Bruins. (Jan. 27, 2014) Credit: Jim McIsaac

Frans Nielsen seemed almost reluctant to discuss his incredible shootout success.

"You want to score big goals during the game, obviously," he said, "but it's still fun, there's still pressure in the shootout and those are important points in the standings."

Nielsen's backhanded compliment to himself is appropriate, given that it's his all-world backhand that has brought him not just success in the shootout, but unequalled success.

Since the NHL instituted what Jack Capuano refers to as the "skills competition" in 2005, Nielsen is basically the best there ever was: His 37 shootout goals are tied for the most ever, his 16 game-deciding shootout goals are tied with Sidney Crosby and Patrick Kane for the most ever and Nielsen's 56.9 percent conversion rate (37 for 65) is tops among NHLers with at least 20 attempts.

Kyle Okposo (8-for-22 all time, 4-for-5 this season) and John Tavares (11-for-37 all time, 2-for-4 this season) aren't slouches either and those three, coupled with Jaro Halak and Chad Johnson in goal, are a big reason why the Isles are 5-0 in shootouts this year.

Think it's just a gimmick? Ask anyone who was on the 2013-14 Devils, a team that went 0-13 in shootouts and missed the playoffs by five points, whether shootouts are only for the fans.

"We know we have good shooters, so we're not going to try and do anything crazy in OT that might lead to a mistake," Nielsen said. "We want to win it in OT, but we have confidence in our guys for the shootout. It definitely is in the back of your head."

The NHL may do away with the shootout in the near future, or at least minimize its effect on the standings further by adding a few minutes of three-on-three overtime. While it's still here and important, though, the Islanders will remain among the best, with one relatively anonymous Dane who outranks the greats of the past decade.

"I keep wondering every summer if [goalies] are going to catch on to me," Nielsen said. "It's fun to still have success doing it."

Lee scoring, mixing it up
Anders Lee is back to doing what he's done best in his very brief NHL career, and that's scoring ugly goals. He had one in each of the games against the Caps this week, bringing his career total to 15 goals in 41 NHL games entering Saturday night's.

Friday was Lee's 100th pro game, with 59 of those coming for Bridgeport the past two seasons. And the goal he scored -- Travis Hamonic's centering feed clicked off Casey Cizikas' stick, Lee's leg and in -- was his 40th in those 100 games.

"You always try to play the same game," said Lee, who had three goals in his past four games after scoring just one in the prior 12. "If you keep going to the net, the bounces will come."

The 24-year-old did do something new this week: His first NHL fight, with Caps forward Tom Wilson. Considering Lee played U.S. high school, USHL and NCAA hockey, he might not be used to the fighting game, though he did have five fights with Bridgeport last season.

"Nothing really came of it, and that's probably the way it should be," Lee said. "For me, it's always going to be the heat of the moment. Sometimes a couple battles just end that way."

A November to remember

Regardless of the outcome of Saturday night's game with the Devils, this was the best Islanders November (10-2) in three decades.

According to team and MSG stat man Eric Hornick, the Isles last won 10 games in November in 1983, when they were 10-2-1. The best Islander November was in 1980, when they went 12-1-2.

The past three Novembers (skipping the no-November 2013-14 season, shortened by lockout)? The Isles were 9-25-6 combined.

Sign up for Newsday’s Islanders texts with a 14-day free trial at newsday.com/islestext.

New York Sports