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Jaroslav Halak strong in goal for Islanders in win over Ottawa

The puck bounces past the head of Islanders

The puck bounces past the head of Islanders goaltender Jaroslav Halak as he makes a save against the Senators in Ottawa, Saturday, Nov. 25, 2017. Credit: The Canadian Press via AP / Justin Tang

KANATA, Ontario — Jaro slav Halak hadn’t been getting the “run support,” as Doug Weight put it before Saturday’s game. Halak was making his third start in the last 10 games, as he’d fallen below Thomas Greiss on Weight’s goaltender preference list, and hadn’t won since Oct. 30.

Halak needed a game like Saturday. He turned aside 31 Senators shots and carried the night in a 2-1 Islanders win, their third straight victory and sixth in the last seven.

He permitted precious few second chances and battled for space and sight lines all night, the hallmarks of what Weight has grown to know as a strong Halak performance.

“You can tell when he’s on,” Weight said. “Our goalies have maybe been victim of some numbers they don’t deserve — Jaro hasn’t had much luck and Greisser has just been battling for wins. It was a big game for Jaro and he was the best player out there.”

With six Senators power plays and 11 total for both teams on the second night of a back-to-back set for both clubs, the goaltenders had to set the tone.

Craig Anderson did so for the Senators, denying John Tavares and Josh Bailey early in the first during a particularly forceful shift in the offensive zone for the Islanders’ top line.

Halak answered later in the first, getting a shoulder on Derick Brassard’s wrister off a three-on-two rush. Halak denied Brassard again in the final minute of the third, flashing his right pad to keep it a one-goal game.

“Lately we’ve been getting down early, 1-0, 2-0,” Halak said. “I just wanted to get through the first and build off it. We didn’t give them much in the first.”

There were five minors called in the second and the Islanders capitalized, with Josh Bailey’s half slap shot grazing off Anders Lee and past Anderson at 8:06 for the only goal for either side after 40 minutes.

The Islanders expected a big push from a Senators team that now has lost six straight and scored only eight goals in that span. Defending that push was made harder by losing Casey Cizikas to a lower-body injury. Cizikas crashed hard into the end boards during a second-period penalty kill, hobbled off, returned for a shift and then called it a night.

The Islanders thought they had built a 2-0 lead in the third, but a delayed penalty call to Jordan Eberle for goaltender interference negated the goal. But the Isles got the crucial second goal when Mathew Barzal circled the Ottawa zone, got a couple of Senators forwards wrong-footed and dropped the puck to Nick Leddy, who found Eberle in front for a backhand at 14:10. It was Eberle’s ninth goal of the season, all in the last 13 games.

Barzal extended his points streak to six games with the assist and Leddy, with two assists in the game, has 19 points in his last 16 games.

With a late power play, the Senators got on the board at 15:39 when Matt Duchene buried a rebound for his first goal and point for Ottawa, but the Isles and Halak kept it tight after that.

“Jaro’s had some lousy luck,” Johnny Boychuk said. “We should’ve gotten him a shutout tonight, too. But we came here to get the two points and that’s what we got. Mostly thanks to him.”

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