UNIONDALE, N.Y. (AP) — Sergei Kostitsyn and Matt Halischuk scored on Nashville’s first two shots against Islanders goalie Kevin Poulin, and the surging Predators rolled to a 3-1 victory over New York on Monday in a holiday matinee.
David Legwand also finished a precision three-way passing play to close out the dominating first period for the Predators, who won for the eighth time in nine games and are 14-4 in their past 18.
Pekka Rinne made 36 saves for his 24th win, second in the NHL. He was denied his fourth shutout of the season when John Tavares extended his career-best point streak to nine games by scoring a goal with 3:58 remaining. Rinne’s best stop came midway through the second period when he made a quick glove save to turn aside Tavares during New York’s two-man power play.
Rinne also stood his ground in the closing seconds of the middle period when the Islanders threatened with a flurry in front of the crease.
Nashville (26-15-4) has 56 points, four behind the NHL lead, but is only fourth in the tough Central Division.
The Islanders dropped to 5-9-1 against Nashville and haven’t beaten the Predators in regulation since April 11, 2002. It was a disappointing end to New York’s homestand in which the Islanders went 2-2. They had been 15-1-7 at home in their last 23 games against Western Conference teams.
The slow start was nothing new to the Islanders, who have allowed a goal on the first shot nine times this season. Kostitsyn connected for his 11th at 2:17 when he carried the puck into the slot and snapped a shot past Poulin. Nashville took it a step further by grabbing a 2-0 lead 3:17 later when Halischuk fired a shot from near the right wing boards that hit the stick of diving Islanders defenseman Steve Staios and bounded past Poulin for an unassisted goal.
When Poulin finally made a save with 12:39 left in the first, he received a mock cheer from the crowd that was filled with enthusiastic kids, who despite the lopsided score had a good time with a day off from school.
Legwand started and finished the crisp passing exercise that gave Nashville a 3-0 edge. Legwand dropped the puck back to Colin Wilson in the Islanders zone and kept skating toward the net. Wilson crossed a pass to Martin Erat near the right post, and Erat quickly moved the puck across to Legwand, who easily scored his 13th goal into the open left side at 11:37.
The 21-year-old Poulin stopped 29 shots in just his second start of the season for the Islanders, and first since being recalled from the AHL on Jan. 9. He allowed three goals on 29 shots in a 3-2 home loss to Dallas on Jan. 15. Evgeni Nabokov, who earned his 300th NHL victory Saturday against Buffalo, got the day off after playing in the previous 12 games — including 11 consecutive starts.
NOTES: The Predators began their sixth set of back-to-back games that concludes Tuesday at the New York Rangers. They only have 11, their fewest in four seasons. … Nashville rookie center Craig Smith missed his second straight game — and second this season — because of illness. … The Predators, 21-2-2 when scoring at least three goals, have outscored opponents 13-6 in the last 11 first periods. … The Islanders have used five goalies this season. … Poulin is 4-4-1 in 12 career NHL games
(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.)