NEW YORK — Robin Lehner made 35 saves to lead the Islanders to a 4-0 shutout win over the San Jose Sharks on Monday. Lehner is the first Islander goaltender to record a shutout in their debut with the team.
Anders Lee, Scott Mayfield, Matt Martin and Casey Cizikas all scored in the Islanders win. It was Lee’s goal in the middle of the second period that broke a scoreless tie.
Mayfield scored 5:16 into the third period to give the Islanders a two-goal lead and Matt Martin scored the game’s third goal at 13:02. Cizikas sealed the win with an empty-net goal in the final minute of the game.
1. The story of the night was the superb play of Robin Lehner. His 35-save effort turned quite a few heads during the matinee game against the Sharks in his first regular-season start with the Islanders.
The Islanders starter made several big saves during the course of the afternoon, which included a last-second save on Marcus Sorensen to preserve the shutout. It was Lehner’s ninth of his career.
“I was a little bit nervous in the beginning to be honest,” Lehner said. “Then we got a couple of easy ones right from the start. Kind of settled down a little bit. I’ve been feeling good this week in practice. I’ve been feeling good in camp and in practice. I’ve had some games that I didn’t really like, but in practice, it’s been real good.
“I think I keep building there and I’m going to keep building in practice to go forward there.”
Lehner was named the game’s first star on Monday. His last shutout was on January 25 against the Vancouver Canucks when he was still with the Buffalo Sabres.
2. “If there’s anybody who deserves it it’s him. He’s a special guy. He’s been through a lot and he’s a great hockey player. We’re all very, very happy for him.” — Cal Clutterbuck on Lehner’s shutout.
3. Lehner helped the Islander Monday by keeping the puck out of the net for 60 minutes and the guys in front of him helped Lehner out by giving him some room to work with on the scoreboard. The Islanders scored once in the second period on the power play and three more times in the third, which included a shorthanded empty net goal.
The Islanders have had a history of taking their foot off the pedal in third periods and squandering leads, but that wasn’t the case on Monday. The Islanders continued to battle and held a very good San Jose Sharks team at bay.
“You don’t protect a lead, you just keep playing,” Islanders head coach Barry Trotz said. “You play the right way and you play hard… What you’re going to have to do if you’re going to have success in this league is you have to get comfortable when it’s a little uncomfortable. Meaning, if it’s a one-goal game, you’re up 2-0 and they get the next goal you don’t panic.
“You just keep playing and that’s what we keep trying to say.”
4. Part of what has helped has been the new structure that the team’s new coaching staff has put in place. Trotz has preached it to his guys throughout training camp and during practice and the Islanders appear to be buying in.
The Islanders were credited with 23 blocked shots against the Sharks and of the team’s 18 skaters 14 had at least one blocked shot.
“You can tell it’s there. Every guy takes pride in it,” Lee said about the defensive structure. “It’s all five guys on the ice and the goalie. Everyone is pulling the same rope right now and you can see that the shots they’re getting are mostly from the perimeter and our defensive zone right now is pretty strong.”
5. The new defensive structure has also helped the Islanders penalty kill remain perfect through the first three games of the year. The Islanders are now 8-for-8 on the PK after killing all four of the Sharks power play chances on Monday.
6. “It’s been good. I think we’ve got a solid foundation. We understand what our roles are. We understand what can beat us. We understand how to prevent that and we’ve been hard on faceoffs. Hard on clears and we’re committed to blocking shots when things kind of go awry.”
7. Someone who saw plenty of penalty killing time against San Jose was Valtteri Filppula, who also helped set up Matt Martin’s goal in the third period. What was interesting was the way Martin described Filppula after the game.
He told reporters that it used to be a bit of a running joke that Filppula and Frans Nielsen were carbon copies of one another. And Martin highlighted the work that Filppula did in the corner to steal the puck from Erik Karlsson and pass to Martin for the goal.
“A lot of people won’t notice it but the way he took that puck off Karlsson to feed me, not a lot of guys do that,” Martin said. “It’s a pretty special thing. Special player, special brain for the game that you can’t teach it. He’s just very savvy and a good two-way player. We’re very fortunate to have him here.”