Thomas Hickey’s first NHL goal capped off a two-goal comeback as the New York Islanders beat the Montreal Canadiens 4-3 in overtime at Bell Centre Thursday.
On what initially appeared to be a broken play in overtime, John Tavares lost his footing in the Montreal zone but was able to poke the puck across the slot as he fell to the ice. Michael Grabner spotted Hickey at the other side of the goal for the game-winner at 3:12 of the extra period.
“Grabby got it over and I honestly just put my stick toward the net in a shooting motion,” Hickey said. “I didn’t know where the puck would be. It worked out perfect.”
“I wanted to cut to the middle, but I lost my edge,” Tavares said. “I heard Grabs yelling, so I knew he was behind me and I caught him at the last second. It was a desperation poke. I didn’t know Hicks was there. He jumped up and made a great play.”
The first goal was a long time in the making for Hickey, who was drafted fourth overall by Los Angeles in 2007.
“It probably feels sweeter with time than if I would have gotten it a while ago,” Hickey said. “I’ve put in a lot of hard work, and there’s been a lot of doubt, but I stayed confident and I’m fortunate to have an opportunity to play here. To do it in this building is pretty special.”
The Islanders trailed 2-0 after one period and 3-1 late in the second, but stormed back to force overtime and eventually earn two points.
Trailing 3-2 in the third act, Frans Nielsen broke up a rush in the Islanders zone before making a long outlet pass ahead to Josh Bailey. Bailey pulled up just inside the Montreal blue line and found Nielsen in the middle. The centerman took advantage of time and space and wristed one top-shelf over Montreal goaltender Carey Price’s glove at 9:51.
The Canadiens drew first blood with a Travis Moen goal in the opening minute. A turnover deep in the Islanders zone wound up on the stick on Colby Armstrong, who fed Moen for his second of the season at the 0:49 mark.
Midway through the opening frame, Max Pacioretty doubled Montreal’s lead on the power play. PK Subban fed the puck to David Desharnais, who found Pacioretty in the slot. The winger one-timed his third of the season past Evgeni Nabokov at 11:02.
After 20 minutes, the Islanders trailed 2-0 on the score board, mustering only three shots to the Canadiens’ 14.
“The first period they struggled,” Islanders Head Coach Jack Capuano said of the defensive effort. “They got exposed quite a bit. But they regrouped. It was the toughest period for our D in a long time. We had a lot of turnovers. But overall we battled back and it was a good team win for us.”
A Lars Eller minor late in the first period overlapped into the second frame, where the Islanders scored early on the man advantage. Mark Streit’s shot from the right point tipped off Matt Moulson’s stick on its way in just 34 seconds removed from the intermission. Lubomir Visnovsky earned the secondary assist on the play.
Pacioretty netted his second of the contest seven minutes later. The Islanders defense collapsed below the goal line on Desharnais, who fed to the slot for a wide open Pacioretty in front of the net. He beat Nabokov at the 8:30, re-establishing Montreal’s two-goal cushion.
Just 25 seconds into an Islanders man advantage, Moulson’s second tally made the score 3-2. Tavares found his linemate from below the goal line, and Moulson converted the opportunity at 16:57 of the middle stanza.
Moulson’s marker made the Islanders 2-for-2 on the power play. They finished the game 2-for-4.
“I think we just pay attention to the details,” Tavares said of the power play success. “(Assistant Coach) Doug Weight does a great job breaking things down for us, and helping us understand what we need to do. Our work ethic is there, and we’ve been in the right spots, finding open seams and shooting lanes.”
Nabokov made four of his 30 saves during the third period, including a sprawling stop to rob Pacioretty of the hat trick with seven minutes remaining. With the win, Nabokov improved his record to 7-6-1 this season.
The Islanders conclude their three-game road trip Saturday when they take on the Buffalo Sabres at 7:00 p.m.
Notes: The Islanders penalty kill went 3-for-4 … Matt Moulson led all players with six shots on goal … With his 263rd consecutive game played, Matt Moulson moves past Denis Potvin and now has sole possession of third place on the franchise all-time leader board … The Islanders blocked 22 shots, including a game-high five from Andrew MacDonald … Marty Reasoner was 8-for-13 (62%) in the faceoff circle.
New York Islanders
21 Brian Gionta - 14 Tomas Plekanec - 17 Rene Bourque
67 Max Pacioretty - 51 David Desharnais - 72 Erik Cole
8 Brandon Prust - 81 Lars Eller - 27 Alex Galchenyuk
20 Colby Armstrong - 53 Ryan White - 32 Travis Moen
79 Andrei Markov - 74 Alexei Emelin
26 Josh Gorges - 61 Raphael Diaz
55 Francis Bouillon - 76 PK Subban
31 Carey Price
30 Peter Budaj