For a moment, it almost looked too easy.
Jaroslav Halak only had to stop 15 shots through the first two periods against the Calgary Flames on Friday night at the Coliseum.
Then there was what looked to be an insurance goal by Cal Clutterbuck a little more than four minutes into the third period to help etch Jaro's name in the team's record book.
But this is the Islanders, a playoff-bound team whose success this season is underscored by the years of toil and disappointment that came before it.
And Halak, who came into the game tied with three others for the Isles' single-season win record, was going to have to work just a little bit harder to earn his spot in local lore.
Not too much harder, though.
Clutterbuck's goal was called off after the referees pegged Brock Nelson for goalie interference, a call that Clutterbuck and Islanders coach Jack Capuano disputed.
And the Flames, the best third-period team in the league, rattled off 12 shots in the third to make sure Halak earned his 33rd win as the Islanders held on to defeat Calgary, 2-1, and reclaim sole ownership of first place in the Metropolitan Division.
"It feels good . . . but I just wanted to win the game and we got it done," Halak said. "I think they played pretty good hockey and their goalie played great tonight . . . I was glad when it was over."
Clutterbuck scored an empty-netter with 42 seconds left in the game to give the Islanders a 2-0 advantage, but the Flames, who are trying to eke their way into the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference, didn't quit. Josh Jooris netted a goal past Halak with 21 seconds left to cost the goalie the shutout. Halak made 26 saves.
Halak, who missed his first shot at the record in a loss Sunday to Vancouver, broke the record of 32 victories held jointly by Bill Smith, who did it in 1981-82; Chris Osgood, who did it in 2001-2; and Rick DiPietro who did it in 2006-07.
For most of the game, it was a test of wills -- as both teams skated fast and structurally sound hockey (some might even say playoff-like). The Islanders got on the board 11:39 into the first period when John Tavares lassoed his own rebound and skirted the puck around a double team to the crashing Ryan Strome, who scored with 26 seconds left in the Isles' first power play of the game. The Islanders, who came in with a league-worst .746 penalty-kill percentage, were able to quash all four of the Flames attempts.
Flames goaltender Karri Ramo was brilliant. He made 37 saves, including a three-shot flurry by Michael Grabner, Josh Bailey and Travis Hamonic in the second period.
"They don't give you much," Capuano said. "I thought tonight we were patient when he had to be and we were aggressive when we needed to be . . . I thought it was a good hockey game."
Halak's biggest scare came in an otherwise manageable first period. At 13:40, Johnny Boychuck was called for hooking Michael Ferland from behind, leading to a penalty shot, but Halak made a quick read and smothered the low, long-range attempt with his pads to deny the Flames a tie.
"He didn't do too much on it," Halak said. "He just shot it and I was able to stop it."
That, at least, was easy.