UNIONDALE, N.Y. (AP) — The New York Islanders showed very little over the final 40 minutes against the Minnesota Wild.
Luckily for them, they were dominant enough in the first period to escape with their first win of the season.
Andrew MacDonald and Frans Nielsen scored early, and the Islanders hung on behind a strong defensive effort and a fine outing by goalie Al Montoya to register a 2-1 victory Monday in front of a young and enthusiastic Columbus Day crowd.
“We’re definitely happy to get this win, but at the same time we have to learn from this,” Nielsen said. “We didn’t play great.”
New York killed all five Wild power plays, including a two-man advantage in the second period, and blocked 17 shots. That made things easier for Montoya, who had 20 saves in his second straight start over Rick DiPietro. Unlike his outing in the season-opening 2-0 loss to Florida on Saturday, Montoya got some offense and kept the Wild at bay.
“We came out with the right attitude,” Montoya said of the first period. “It was attack, attack. Throw bodies at the net, throw pucks at the end. We kind of held them off after that.”
Even though Montoya lost his shutout bid 1:13 into the third, when Matt Cullen scored his second goal in two games, he had a strong final period. He made eight saves in the frame, mostly when the Wild pressed for the elusive tying goal. New York managed to hold off the Wild despite being outshot 19-5 after the impressive first period.
“We did a lot of good things,” Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. “We looked sharp, we were playing on our toes and not on our heels. Then all of a sudden, for whatever reason, we didn’t have great puck management and that led to penalties. Anytime that you take as many penalties as we have, you can’t get into the flow of the game.”
Minnesota had chances to score, especially during its 44-second, two-man advantage that didn’t generate a shot, and a pair of third-period power plays.
The Wild lost their first road game after opening with a 4-2 home win over Columbus on Saturday.
“We played well in the second half of the game. The first half was disappointing,” Cullen said. “The power play had a lot of chances, but couldn’t convert. Montoya was very good.”
The Islanders took care of their offensive woes in a hurry following the uninspired loss to Florida.
MacDonald netted New York’s first goal of the season when he stepped into the rebound of defense partner Travis Hamonic’s shot that caromed out near the blue line. He ripped a drive that rattled in off the left post at 9:05 — 11 seconds into Minnesota captain Mikko Koivu’s tripping penalty.
The lead grew to 2-0, again from the blue line. Mark Streit faked a shot from the left point, glided deeper into the zone, and wound up again. Instead of firing a shot, Streit — the new Islanders captain who missed all of last season because of a shoulder injury — sent a hard pass down to the right post to Nielsen for a perfect redirect goal at 11:45.
P.A. Parenteau had the secondary assist on both goals.
Despite drawing two power plays in the opening 5:09, the Wild mustered only two shots on Montoya in the first period. Minnesota didn’t record a shot on either advantage.
“The killers on this team did an unbelievable job throwing their bodies in front,” Montoya said. “We’re a hardworking team. The PK has got to be our bread and butter.”
Niklas Backstrom kept the Islanders’ lead at two goals in the one-sided period by making a strong save in the crease against Matt Moulson, who deflected a shot from point-blank range with just over 5 minutes remaining.
Minnesota came out stronger to start the second period and earned another power play at 1:24. At least this time the Wild got a shot during the advantage and totaled three overall in the opening 1:32 of the frame — but didn’t get any pucks past Montoya.
The shot totals completely turned in that period, when Minnesota held a 10-2 advantage. The Wild were helped late when they had their 5-on-3, but failed to cut into the Islanders’ lead. Dany Heatley had a chance in front on the second half of the power play, but put an in-close shot into Montoya.
“We were a little slow to start,” said Heatley, who had a team-high four shots. “In the second and third we responded well. We’ve got to find ways to finish.”
Notes: Pierre-Marc Bouchard, who had two assists in the Wild’s season opener, served the first game of a two-game suspension for high-sticking Columbus forward Matt Calvert on Saturday. Bouchard also will sit out Tuesday at Ottawa. He is eligible to return Thursday against Edmonton. … Both teams used their lone timeout before the second period was over. The Wild called theirs before the two-man advantage. … MacDonald had a career-best 27 points last season before being shut down with seven games remaining because of a hip injury.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)