MONTREAL (AP)—Jose Theodore already matched his shutout total of last season and feels his return to form speaks for itself.
Theodore posted his second shutout of the season, and Yanic Perreault, Marcel Hossa and Andreas Dackell scored to lead the Montreal Canadiens to a 3-0 victory over the New York Islanders on Thursday night.
Theodore struggled all last season after being named the NHL’s MVP and best goalie in 2001-02. He stopped all 34 Islanders shots for his 19th career shutout. He has allowed three goals in his last five games, including a 4-0 win in Toronto on Oct. 11.
“There’s nothing to say,” Theodore said. “We’ve played really well as a team and I think if we keep playing the same way, the same system, there’s going to be more shutouts, that’s for sure, because we’re playing well defensively.”
Montreal has not allowed opponents more than one goal in six games since a season-opening 5-2 loss in Ottawa.
Perreault beat New York goalie Rick DiPietro for his fourth goal of the season 5:25 in, and Hossa scored his second with 2:00 left in the second.
“The Islanders are also a team that has played really well defensively since the beginning of the year and I think by taking the lead it pushed them to open up a little bit,” Perreault said.
Dackell closed the scoring with his second goal as Montreal ended the Islanders’ four-game unbeaten streak (3-0-1).
“They’re playing a real sound, tight, disciplined and patient game, and it was no different tonight,” Islanders coach Steve Stirling said. “It was almost like through the first two periods they lulled us to sleep, which was to their advantage, unfortunately for us.”
DiPietro, who has started four of New York’s last five games, lost for the first time in five games this season. He allowed more than two goals for the first time, yet his goals-against-average only rose from 0.86 to 1.30.
Islanders leading scorer Mariusz Czerkawski was booed virtually every time he touched the puck. Czerkawski, who returned to New York as a free agent after his contract was bought out by Montreal, scored just five goals in 43 games with the Canadiens last season before he was benched and sent to the minors.
“It was a little bit 50-50 that they were going to boo me, but they decided to do it and I have to live with it,” Czerkawski said. “I never said anything bad about being here.”
Montreal captain Saku Koivu was originally scheduled to make his season debut but instead missed his seventh straight game as he recovers from a sprained right knee.
“We’re crossing our fingers that he will be back for Saturday’s game (against Ottawa),” coach Claude Julien said.
Perreault put the Canadiens up 1-0 shortly after DiPietro stopped his first scoring chance. Montreal rookie Michael Ryder recovered Perreault’s rebound and passed to the Canadiens center from the left side. Given a second chance, Perreault set himself and put a wrist shot into the top right corner.
“I had two good chances from the top of the circle, and the second one, I was able to bury it,” Perreault said.
DiPietro made a sensational sprawling save at 11:00 of the second, diving to stop Donald Audette’s shot with the wide blade of his stick.
Hossa made it a two-goal lead at 18:00, waiting for Mike Ribeiro’s behind-the-net pass and burying a shot from the edge of the crease when he was left unattended by two Islanders defensemen.
“It’s tough when the puck’s behind the net like that and you’ve got a guy who’s as skilled a passer as Ribeiro is,” DiPietro said. “He’s going to find somebody, and unfortunately he found Hossa and he put it in the net.”
Dackell scored his second goal with 2:22 remaining.
The Islanders won three of four against Montreal last season. … Theodore has five shutouts in 17 career appearances against the Islanders. … Montreal has outscored opponents 18-4 in its last six games. … Canadiens D Stephane Quintal was struck in the face by a puck midway through the third period when he deflected a slap shot by New York’s Alexei Yashin. Quintal leftthe game briefly, but returned.