OTTAWA — In retrospect, maybe the Islanders wish the Ottawa Senators had put Craig Anderson in a backup role Saturday rather than giving him the start.
Anderson made his first start in 69 days and turned aside 33 shots as the Senators blanked the Islanders, 3-0, at the Canadian Tire Centre.
Anderson left the club in early December to be with his wife, Nicholle, who is battling cancer, and made his return to practice last week.
“It’s a tough thing he’s going through,’’ the Islanders’ Josh Bailey said. “I don’t know him personally, but obviously you wish the best for him.
“Obviously, we didn’t want him to get a shutout. We definitely need to be a little bit better, but we still had a couple that could have gone in. They were more opportunistic than us and they found a way to capitalize on their chances, but all in all, it wasn’t a terrible game for us.”
“You have games like that, but give credit to their goaltender,” Andrew Ladd said. “We probably could have done a better job getting more pucks toward the net, but I think there’s a lot of things that we liked about our game.”
The shutout was the fourth of the season for Anderson in only 20 games.
“I got a little luck and we got a little luck at the other end. It’s one of those nights where fate was in our favor,” said Anderson, whose wife is battling nasopharyngeal carcinoma, a form of head and neck cancer.
Mark Stone, Zack Smith and Jean-Gabriel Pageau scored for the Senators.
Thomas Greiss made 21 saves for the Islanders (24-19-10) in his eighth start in the past nine games. It was only the second regulation loss for the Islanders in their past 12 games.
Stone opened the scoring at 4:10 of the first period, the benefactor of his own hard work and a little luck. After stealing the puck from Alan Quine in the Islanders’ zone, Stone fed Erik Karlsson. He missed the net with his shot, but Stone followed up behind the net, collected the puck and banked a shot from behind the goal line off Greiss and in.
Smith gave the Senators a 2-0 lead at 4:35 of the second period. Kyle Turris sent Smith in alone and he moved the puck from his backhand to his forehand to beat Greiss.
A little less than three minutes later, Pageau put the Senators up 3-0, redirecting a pass from Tom Pyatt past Greiss at 7:12 just as an Islanders power play had expired.
John Tavares took a slashing penalty with two minutes to play in the third period as the Islanders finished the game killing a penalty.
“I still think we have to be positive,” Tavares said. “I think we were the better team and I thought we generated more chances. I just don’t think we were as good in front of the net as we have been. Anderson was obviously sharp and he controlled the rebounds really well.”