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Brock & Roll: Nelson Lifts Islanders to Win over Caps in Defensive Showcase

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New York Islanders Brock Nelson wins.

UNIONDALE, N.Y. — It sure wasn’t the offensive back and forth that was seen last week between the New York Islanders and Washington Capitals, but the end result was the same. An Islanders victory.

It was a goaltending and defensive duel between the East Division rivals that kept the game scoreless until the 13:05 mark of the third period when Brock Nelson finally found the twine and led New York to a 1-0 win. Tuesday was the second time in less than a week that the Islanders defeated Washington after dropping their first three meetings on the road.

“I liked the way we managed the puck. I liked the way we controlled it in the offensive zone. I liked the way we defended,” Islanders head coach Barry Trotz said. “Washington doesn’t need a lot of opportunities to capitalize. They have some pretty dangerous shooters. … I thought we managed it pretty good. I didn’t think they had a lot of opportunities, but the some that they did were pretty dangerous and (Semyon Varlamov) came up big.

“I thought their goaltender played extremely well. We had lots of chances to pull away, we didn’t, and it was a hell of a hockey game between two good teams.”

The win moves the New York Islanders back into a tie with Washington for the Division lead. They also pulled four points clear of the Pittsburgh Penguins, who fell to the New York Rangers 8-4.

Semyon Varlamov recorded his fourth shutout of the season with a 29 save effort in net, on what had been a calm night through different points of the game. The Russian netminder did have to make several key stops when he was challenged by Washington’s talented offensive assets.

“Usually when you when you start thinking about (the shutout) you give up the goal,” Varlamov said. “It’s happened to me so many times so I know it’s just thoughts and I try not to think about it. Just try stay focused and make another save and then I was able to do that today.”

Varlamov is now 16-7-3 in 26 starts.

The game was a much more traditional Islanders win than they had last week against Washington. Under Barry Trotz is known as a much more defensive-minded team and that was the style that they played, which led to several offensive chances throughout the night.

The Islanders outshot Washington 39-29 through the 60-minute affair and hit the iron on three different occasions. A blast from Noah Dobson clanked off the crossbar and the sound echoed through the Nassau Coliseum. Jordan Eberle hit the crossbar himself two different times.

Nelson’s game-winner came with 6:55 left to play in the game. The Islanders forward forced a turnover behind the Washington net and the puck rolled to Ryan Pulock at the point.

The Islanders defender sent the puck back towards Washington starter Vitek Vanecek. The puck appeared to hit a player in front of the net and Nelson was able to pick it up and put it past Vanecek for his 14th goal of the season.

“It was a nice play by Pulls to hold the line and kind of create some offense there before they were set up in the D zone,” Nelson said. “Bails is occupying the guy in front and I was able to find the loose puck with some space and get it in. it was nice to get that one.”

Josh Bailey was credited with the primary assist, which was his 500th point in the NHL. While the milestone is a significant one, it was not something that Bailey had been focusing on beforehand.

Ross Johnston was a healthy scratch on Tuesday night. He had exited Saturday’s win over Philadelphia early after getting into a fight with Samuel Morin. That meant Kieffer Bellows returned to the New York Islanders lineup, where he saw 10:16 of ice time.

Trotz said the decision to play Bellows was a combination of being cautious with Johnston and wanting to get Bellows another chance in the lineup.

“I thought Kieffer came in and did a real good job,” Trotz said. “He was physical. He was detailed systematically and he was competing. I liked his game. I had no problem with him.”

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