It was better to be lucky . . . then good for the Islanders Tuesday night.
Even Jaroslav Halak gave up on Derick Brassard's rebound try late in the first period. The Islanders goaltender had just been beaten by Rick Nash's shot that clanged off the post.
It caromed right out to Brassard, who had an open net and Halak beaten.
"I guess something happened," Halak said after Brassard banked that easy shot off both posts and the Islanders, buoyed by a little good fortune, made their own breaks by dominating over the final 40 minutes on the way to a 3-0 victory over the Rangers. It was their third straight victory and Halak's fourth shutout of the season.
How they got from fortunate caroms to running the hottest team in the NHL out of its own building is a story that's familiar to Islanders fans this season: The Isles simply outworked the Rangers, grinding away with the puck to wear out not only the skaters but Henrik Lundqvist, who was pulled after allowing three second-period goals on 19 shots.
"I don't think we changed too much," said Nikolay Kulemin, who settled a fluttering puck and snapped a wrist shot past Lundqvist with 3:29 left in the second for a crucial 2-0 lead. "We had a lot of shots in the first and we keep doing what we've done. I think they got a little tired."
And the Islanders ramped things up, pumping 44 shots on Lundqvist and Cam Talbot, still outshooting the Rangers 12-6 over the final 20 minutes when they were prepared for their hosts to come storming back.
The Isles' confidence is brimming, even when John Tavares gets shut out, as he did Tuesday night. This was the 11th win in 15 games this season when Tavares was held without a point.
"We expect to win every game, wherever we play, whenever we play," Tavares said. "I don't think we're focused on statement games. We just want to get to where we want to be."
They're getting there on hard work and the sort of supplemental scoring that's been missing in seasons gone by. Anders Lee opened the scoring with yet another opportunistic goal, his 11th of the season -- he has the most goals in the NHL among players averaging less than 12:30 of ice time per game.
Kulemin scored his eighth in just over half a season after seasons of seven, seven and nine goals the past three years with the Leafs. And Frans Nielsen's shorthanded goal in the final minute of the second, the one that sent Lundqvist to the bench, was the Isles' league-leading seventh shorthanded goal.
"So far this year, we haven't wanted to get too high on our highs or too low on our lows," Travis Hamonic said. "We lost a couple games in Canada and people were freaking out a little, but we've done a good job this year rebounding from losses. This one feels good, but it's right back to work tomorrow."
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