UNIONDALE, N.Y. (AP) — The New York Islanders are dominating opponents with a smothering defense and timely scoring.
They executed that winning formula to perfection on Sunday against the Anaheim Ducks.
Cal Clutterbuck scored twice in the first period and Robin Lehner made 19 saves for his third shutout this season as the Islanders downed the Ducks 3-0 on Sunday for their fifth straight win.
The victory was the 15th in 18 games for the Metropolitan Division-leading Islanders, who have surged past Washington and Columbus over the past month. The Islanders have one game remaining — Tuesday at Chicago — before the All-Star break.
“We came out with a lot of energy. We work hard and frustrate the other team,” said Lehner, who continued his sterling comeback season, improving to 15-7-3. “You have to set the tone and there’s no reason to deviate now. We are playing our game.”
Clutterbuck opened the scoring at 4:50 of the first with a power-play goal. The 31-year-old forward completed a slick passing sequence by whipping the puck from the slot past former Islanders goaltender Chad Johnson. It was the sixth straight game in which the Islanders scored first as they improved to 5-1-1 this season at their former full-time home, Nassau Coliseum.
Josh Bailey and Anthony Beauviller assisted. Bailey moved past Bob Nystrom on the team’s all-time assist list with 279 and into a tie with Pat LaFontaine for 12th place. Bailey, who is tied with captain Anders Lee for second on the team in points with 37, has three goals and three assists in last seven games.
Clutterbuck scored again from a nearly identical spot midway through the first for his sixth goal of the season.
“There’s a lot of confidence in the way we are playing and it’s nice to get a couple,” Clutterbuck said. “It’s an affirmation that the style we have and the work we’ve been putting in is a winning structure.”
Clutterbuck, in his sixth season with the Islanders, also scored in Friday’s 2-0 win at Washington, which moved the Islanders past the Capitals into the division lead. The Islanders are also 25-2-1 when scoring three or more goals this season.
“It’s fun right now,” Clutterbuck said, “but there’s still a long way to go.”
Leo Komarov scored his sixth this season with 29 seconds remaining in the second period.
The Islanders are 12-2-0 since rookie defenseman Devon Toews, who assisted on Komarov’s goal, joined the lineup for the first time on Dec 23.
Lehner, who leads the league with a 2.02 goals-against average, won for the 11th time his last 12 games. The 27-year-old Swede has been a revelation since he signed a one-year free-agent contract with the Islanders last summer after he was let go by the Buffalo Sabres.
“The defense is just helping me out and working hard,” he said.
The Islanders have allowed one goal or fewer 16 times this season, including each of their last four games. They have surrendered two goals or fewer in nine of their last 12.
“The last three games have been amazing — Jersey, Washington, we have really suffocated them,” Lehner said.
The Islanders held the Capitals and Devils to less than 20 shots in their previous two wins, and then did it again against the Ducks, who came in with a two-game winning streak after losing their previous 12.
“We did some good things but we didn’t do a lot of generating off the rush,” Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said. “We were trying to force things and we lacked execution.”
NOTES: The Islanders scratched F Tom Kuhnhackl, F Ross Johnston and D Luca Sbisa. … Anaheim scratched Ds Michael Del Zotto and Andre Sustr and F Justin Kloos. … The Ducks won this season’s previous meeting, 4-1, on Oct. 17 at Anaheim.
Islanders: Visit the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday night before the All-Star break.
Ducks: Host the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday before the All-Star break.
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