The New York Islanders completed their first-ever season sweep of the Carolina Hurricanes with a 4-3 win Saturday night at Nassau Coliseum.
The Islanders were powered by their top line of John Tavares, Matt Moulson and PA Parenteau, as the trio combined for six points with Tavares scoring the game-winner early in the third period.
“It’s nice for me to capitalize on what I do best,” Tavares said of his three-point night. “It probably wasn’t our best game, but we found a way and we turned it up when we had to.”
It was a back and forth tilt and no lead was safe in the first two periods. Until Tavares’ game-winner at :38 of the third, the longest lead was held for 11:40, with both teams tied at the end of the first and second periods.
Kyle Okposo opened the scoring, sniping a shot in off the crossbar and over Cam Ward’s glove. Carolina answered before the end of the first period when Brandon Sutter finished a 2-on-1 with Patrick Dwyer, deking around Kevin Poulin.
The Hurricanes came out for the second period with a purpose, as Jiri Tlusty finished a back-door play 15 seconds into the middle frame. Tlusty extended his point streak to seven games, netting four goals and three assists over that span.
The 2-1 deficit didn’t last long, as less than four minutes later, John Tavares ended an eight-game goal-less drought, potting his 23rd of the season. The Hurricanes were a fitting antidote for Tavares, whose last scored Jan. 31 in Raleigh. The Islanders re-gained the lead at 8:01 of the second on the power play when Frans Nielsen scored his third goal in four games, finishing a tic-tac-toe play from Tavares.
Three minutes after the Isles took the lead, Jaroslav Spacek fired a point shot through traffic to again level the score at three.
“We made a few mistakes, but we picked up each other and that’s what it’s all about if you want to win in this league,” Parenteau said. “The guys showed a lot of character. They battled all night. We didn’t quit.”
The Hurricanes’ backup goalie, Justin Peters, started the third period after Ward left with a lower-body injury. Tavares beat Peters for the eventual winner in a scramble 38 seconds into the period.
Poulin made 33 saves to earn his second win of the season and second against Carolina. Ward allowed three goals on 21 shots and Peters stopped 9 of 10 in relief.
“I was confident,” Poulin said. “We went into the third and knew we were going to win.”
The Islanders had reason to be confident as they improved to 10-2-1 when tied after two periods.
The win, combined with a Toronto loss, puts the Islanders six points back with a game in hand on the eight-seeded Leafs.
“We’re right in it,” Nielsen said. “We all believe it in here and it’s going to be some big weeks coming up for us. We definitely believe we can do it.”
The Islanders host the seventh-seeded Ottawa Senators in a Presidents Day matinee, Monday at Nassau Coliseum. Puck drop is at 1 p.m.