OTTAWA -- Making his first start in 68 days, Craig Anderson pitched a shutout.
The Ottawa Senators goalie returned to the team with a bang, stopping 33 shots in a 3-0 win over the New York Islanders at Canadian Tire Centre on Saturday afternoon. Anderson had not played since Dec. 5 because he was with his wife, Nicholle, as she underwent cancer treatment in a New York hospital.
"I think it was an exciting day for myself to get back in the net, and just be there for the guys, feel that camaraderie," said Anderson, who posted his 37th career shutout while improving his record this season to 13-6-1. "I wanted to make sure I was ready to go and felt confident leaving practice. The last thing to come back is the confidence.
"We did a lot of work with the goalie coach ... you can only do so many goalie drills. It's just different compared to seeing actual full practices, lots of traffic, lots of rebounds and just tracking the puck. That's what I kind of picked up the last two days, and felt confident in my abilities to come in tonight and play."
Mark Stone, Zack Smith and Jean-Gabriel Pageau scored for the Senators (29-18-6).
Thomas Greiss made 21 saves for the Islanders (24-19-10), who suffered just their second regulation time loss in a dozen games.
"I still think we have to be positive," said Islanders captain John Tavares. "I still thought we were the better team tonight. I thought we generated more chances. I just don't think we were as good in front of the net as we have been.
"Anderson was obviously sharp and he controlled the rebounds really well. When you see that, we've got to find a way to get in front and find a way to create some second and third opportunities, make it harder for him to see the puck and be able to control some of those rebounds because of how sharp he was."
Stone opened the scoring at 4:10 of the first period with his 20th goal when he picked the puck up behind the net and banked a shot in off Greiss' leg.
"It's kind of the smart play sometimes," Stone said. "Goalies are out of position, you just throw it in there and it could hit anything."
The Senators scored the only two goals of the second period despite being outshot 14-5. Smith's 13th of the season at the 4:35 mark was followed by Pageau's sixth just 2:37 later, three seconds after Smith stepped out of the penalty box.
The Islanders never seriously threatened after that, as Anderson had to make just nine saves in the third.
"I think it was a real team effort," said Ottawa coach Guy Boucher, who admitted the return of Anderson was significant.
"I can't be more happy. I'd lie if I said this was a normal game. I think he's been waiting to come back for a long time, and we've been waiting for him to come back for a long time," Boucher said. "While he was gone I think the players have done a terrific job of keeping the pace, (backup Mike Condon) was terrific.
"But what I have in mind now is he just continues what he had started before he had to leave. He makes it look easy," added Boucher of Anderson. "There were hard shots. This is a great offensive team. When you look at how he controlled his rebounds, or how far popped out those rebounds, those are really good players with experience. He played terrific."
The Senators are off until Tuesday, when they complete a four-game homestand against the Buffalo Sabres.
The Islanders are back in action Sunday when they host the Colorado Avalanche.
"We were eight points or 10 points out of the wild card and tonight we could have got ourselves in the playoffs," said coach Doug Weight. "Trending doesn't mean diddly, but we're certainly playing better, we're more confident and we're going to try and get back to that tomorrow. We can't let today blow our candle out.
"We've got to go tomorrow and play against a team that is thriving on their spot right now. They are trying to rain on a lot of parades and they are playing hard. They've had some good results lately."
NOTES: The Senators went with seven defensemen and 11 forwards for the second game in a row. ... RW Curtis Lazar was scratched for the third consecutive game and RW Chris Neil was scratched for the second straight game by Ottawa. ... With the return of G Craig Anderson, Andrew Hammond was put on waivers by the Senators. Hammond turned 29 on Saturday. ... The Islanders made no lineup changes. RW Stephen Gionta was scratched for the seventh straight game and D Scott Mayfield was scratched for fifth game in a row.