MONTREAL (AP)—Jaroslav Halak picked up where he left off at home a year ago.
Halak stopped 30 shots for his first shutout of the season, and Roman Hamrlik, Alex Kovalev and Guillaume Latendresse scored for the Montreal Canadiens in a 3-0 win over the New York Islanders on Saturday night.
Halak earned his third NHL shutout in his first home start of the season. He went 7-0 with two shutouts at the Bell Centre as a rookie last season.
“I’ve been looking forward to this game because it’s been almost a year since my last game at home,” Halak said. “It was really amazing. They are very good fans and they were cheering for us all game long.”
Hamrlik opened the scoring on a power play 7:04 into the second period and Kovalev made it 2-0 margin with his team-leading 31st goal on a 2-on-1 early in the third.
Latendresse got his 16th goal with 2:12 remaining, moments after Halak stretched out his right pad to stop Richard Park’s shot.
“Those are bang-bang plays,” Park said. “It’s a reaction play on both parts and he made a great save.”
Montreal, which has nine games remaining, took over the Northeast Division lead with 89 points, two more than idle Ottawa.
“I thought it was pretty solid and, obviously, Jaro played great,” Canadiens left wing Chris Higgins said. “We were all pretty psyched for him after the game about the shutout, and it was the kind of effort we needed after the Ottawa game.”
The Canadiens, who lost 3-0 to the Senators on Thursday, have two left against Ottawa, which has played one fewer game.
New York lost its fifth in a row, one short of its longest losing streak of the season. The Islanders lost six straight from Jan. 24-Feb. 7. Rick DiPietro stopped 26 shots and lost his fourth consecutive start.
“It’s a tough one,” DiPietro said. “It seems like every time you lose, it’s tough, but it’s a nice place to play on a Saturday night and it’s a great place to win, and unfortunately for us we weren’t able to do that.”
The Canadiens finished the season series 4-0, their first sweep of the Islanders in 11 years.
“He made saves when he had to make them,” Islanders captain Bill Guerin said. “We did have some quality chances and he made some big saves. I would have liked to see us execute our rushes a little better, but we had 30 shots. It’s just frustrating.”
The 22-year-old Slovak is 2-0 in four games with the Canadiens this season, including a 35-save outing one week earlier in his first start of the season, a 5-2 win in Los Angeles. He is 12-6 overall in 20 career games with Montreal.
Hamrlik gave the Canadiens a 1-0 lead when he converted Montreal’s second power-play opportunity in the middle period. The defenseman put a rebound of Mark Streit’s shot from the point into an open left side before DiPietro could scramble across.
Kovalev gave the Canadiens a two-goal cushion 5:54 into the third. The Russian right winger drove the left side to take Tomas Plekanec’s pass and put a shot into the left side of the net on another play that left DiPietro little chance of making a save.
A moment of silence was observed before the game for Hall of Famer Ken Reardon, who died earlier Saturday. Reardon, 86, won a Stanley Cup title with the Canadiens in 1946 and was chosen as an NHL All-Star five times during his seven-year career with Montreal. … Islanders RW Ruslan Fedotenko missed his second straight game after injuring a knee in Tuesday’s 8-4 loss to Tampa Bay. … The Canadiens also went 4-0 against the Islanders in 1995-96. … Three of Hamrlik’s goals have come on the power play. … Hamrlik played for the Islanders from 2000-04. … D Ryan O’Byrne and RWs Maxim Lapierre and Mathieu Dandenault were healthy scratches for Montreal.