A few good things came out of Sunday's 5-4 win over the Red Wings, most notably the Islanders simply getting a win after losing seven straight at home.
Right behind that, however, was Jack Capuano's decision to keep Jaroslav Halak in the game after the Isles goaltender gave up a pair of unlucky goals in the first 1:46 of the game. The quick 2-0 deficit, coupled with the long home winless skid, could have pushed Capuano to pull his No. 1 goaltender from a crucial game two weeks before the postseason begins.
Capuano went with Halak, though. It paid off with the win, preserved by a couple of strong saves by Halak in the closing minutes, and the decision also could pay off down the road in boosting confidence in the goaltender who will be in net when Game 1 of the opening round commences two weeks from now.
"Cappy showed him respect, showed confidence and that's very important before the playoffs," Lubomir Visnovsky said of his Slovak countryman. "For a few games before [Sunday], Jaro was our best player but we didn't win. Cappy showed the team [Sunday] we believe in him, we support him and we changed the game."
Halak's first win at the Coliseum since Feb. 27 was, truthfully, one of his worst outings since that game more than a month ago. He couldn't control Danny DeKeyser's high shot and it went off his blocker and right to Tomas Tatar for the opening goal, then Drew Miller and Brian Strait clashed sticks and the resulting shot looped over Halak and in.
But both he and his team settled down. By the third period and with a 5-4 lead, the Islanders played one of their better periods in the past month in front of Halak and he responded with five saves, all in the final 10 minutes, to preserve his 36th win and extend his franchise record.
"We just need to keep playing that style of hockey," Halak said. "We're all just trying to do our jobs."
Halak will almost certainly get the call Thursday in Columbus and it's possible he will start four of the last five Islanders games before the regular season ends, none bigger than the April 10 game in Pittsburgh that could end up determining home-ice advantage for the opening round.
So a win, especially given the early-game circumstances Sunday, was a big deal for all involved.
"He could be in that situation going forward," Capuano said. "To have that focus when you've had a couple bad bounces, that's what it takes to be successful."
Notes & quotes: Visnovsky was the Professional Hockey Writers Association nominee for the Bill Masterton Trophy, given to the player who best displays "perseverance and dedication to the game." Each of the 30 teams has a nominee, with winners chosen later this spring. "You see the skill he has, even at his age  he can still keep up with the young guys," Halak said . . . The Islanders signed undrafted F Ross Johnston to a three-year contract. Johnston, 21, attended the team's prospect camp last summer and is currently playing for Charlottetown of the Quebec Junior League.
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