Islanders end stellar first half of season atop division

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Islanders end stellar first half of season atop division

Nikolay Kulemin had two goals and an assist, and the New York Islanders reclaimed first place in the Eastern Conference with a 7-4 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers on Monday.

Following the last game before the All-Star break, New York is assured of being on top of the Metropolitan Division when it resumes play next week. The Islanders, 15-2 against divisional foes, are off until they host the New York Rangers on Tuesday. New York is 16-4 overall at home.

Michael Grabner, John Tavares and Nick Leddy each had a goal and an assist.

Grabner gave the Islanders the lead on their first shot, and Kulemin made it 3-0 with a short-handed tally on New York’s first shot of the second period. Kulemin also scored in between, and Josh Bailey and Tavares found the net in the Islanders’ three-goal middle period.

Leddy restored the Islanders’ three-goal lead 5:45 into the third.

All-Star Jaroslav Halak made 25 saves for his 25th win this season. The Islanders (31-14-1), who have won five of six, lead Tampa Bay in the East.

New York bounced back from a lackluster 6-4 loss at Montreal on Saturday with its second game in three outings of at least six goals.

Defensemen Mark Streit and Michael Del Zotto had goals for Philadelphia in the second period, Claude Giroux made it 5-3 in the first minute of the third, and Chris VandeVelde brought the Flyers within 6-4 with 2:24 left.

It wasn’t enough to help Rob Zepp, who made his fifth straight start but was yanked in the second period in favor of Ray Emery after allowing four goals on 20 shots. Philadelphia has lost four of six overall and seven of eight on the road.

Anders Lee closed the scoring with an empty-net goal for New York, which had 41 shots.

Grabner got New York going after taking a pass in the neutral zone from Kulemin. Grabner used his speed to streak down left wing, getting around diving defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo and snapping a shot under the crossbar behind Zepp to make it 1-0 just 1:32 in on his fourth goal.

Grabner and Kulemin hooked up again - with defenseman Johnny Boychuk in the middle - to double the lead 6:32 later.

The Flyers found their legs in the second half of the period and ended up with a 14-9 edge in shots in the frame. Their best scoring chance, however, came in the opening minute when a slick 3-on-2 produced a good shot by Wayne Simmonds that Halak corralled.

Grabner nearly had another assist during Philadelphia’s first power play, but Casey Cizikas’ breakaway was stopped by the back of Zepp’s left leg with four minutes left in the opening period.

Streit, a former Islanders captain, closed the Flyers to 3-1 with a power-play goal at 9:07 of the second, but Bailey made it 4-1 at 11:49. After Del Zotto cut the deficit back to two at 15:12, Tavares extended the lead back to three with 7.6 seconds remaining in the second.


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