NEWARK - Jaroslav Halak said the difference was luck -- the reason the Islanders have played well and lost during their recent four-game losing streak, the good bounces they got Saturday night in their win over the Devils, and even that moment midway through the second period when Travis Zajak's wrist shot slapped off the far post and out of danger to preserve a one-goal lead.
But if it really is blind circumstance deciding the Islanders' fate, how could he explain his fifth shutout of the season, or his franchise-high 35th win, or the way he stopped two straight shots, courtesy of a Devils two-on-one in the third period?
"I was able to make saves and then say a prayer that the game stayed the same," Halak demurred. "I think guys did a great job. We came out and I think we didn't give them a lot in the third period."
Halak noted that the turn in fortunes couldn't have come at a better time, with the Rangers winning last night and the Penguins breathing down their necks. Playing a team like the desperate Devils is a challenge.
"It's always tough to play against the teams that are desperate for points, trying to make it to the playoffs," he said. 'I've been in that situation and you kind of play loose and you have nothing to lose . . . For us now, we have to play that kind of hockey, desperate hockey, for the rest of the season."
Despite missing two games with a lower-body injury, Halak more than exceeded expectations in the 3-0 victory, making 26 saves. The best ones came midway through the third period when Steve Bernier and Scott Gomez teamed up on the defenseless netminder. Bernier's shot bounced off Halak to Gomez, whose wrister got smothered by the goalie's pads.
"Tonight, luck was on our side," he said. "We scored some goals. We needed these two points and these are huge in the standings . . . [In losses to the Rangers and Senators], they got some lucky goals and bounces and we just couldn't recover after that and tonight, luck was on our side and we scored a big goal [by Travis Hamonic] after the PP was over. They did a great job and created some momentum for us."