It wasn’t the way they had it drawn up, but the Islanders earned two much-needed standings points Sunday at Nassau Coliseum.
Despite losing a one-goal lead late in the third period, the home team came through in the shootout to beat the Ottawa Senators 3-2. Evgeni Nabokov made 29 saves in regulation and overtime, and went a perfect two-for-two in the shootout as the Islanders improved to 9-11-2.
After regulation goals from Brad Boyes and Michael Grabner, Frans Nielsen scored the game-deciding goal in the first round of the skills competition and John Tavares put the game away with a one-handed backhand shot around Ottawa goaltender Robin Lehner.
“I didn’t think he was expecting the move I wanted to do,” Tavares said of the highlight-reel play. “I just tried to sell the shot to try and make him commit so that I could go back to my backhand.”
The win gives the Islanders three points in their last two games, and their second shootout win in as many tries this season. Following the game, Islanders Head Coach Jack Capuano was pleased with his team’s ability to win a game in which they went 0-for-4 on the power play.
“We battled hard tonight and we got the win against a pretty good hockey team over there,” Capuano said. “Ottawa is a well structured team and it starts from the net out. Special teams weren’t great for us tonight, but we found a way to win the game. But this game’s behind us now. It’s our ninth win. We’re still not where we want to be.”
Boyes opened the scoring with his fifth goal of the season at 7:48 of the first period. Matt Moulson threaded a pass from the left wing to Boyes, who beat Lehner glove side to give the Islanders a 1-0 advantage.
Midway through the second period, Ottawa found the equalizer off the stick of Mika Zibanejad. Chris Neil’s pass bounced off an Islanders defenseman down low and caromed to Zibanejad in the slot, who netted his fourth of the season.
The Islanders reclaimed the lead in the final minutes of regulation, when Michael Grabner put a low shot into the back of the net at 16:31 of the third. The unassisted marker was the left wing’s eighth of 2012-13.
The Islanders held the lead until a tripping minor late in the third put the Senators on the man advantage. Ottawa made good on the opportunity, as Patrick Wiercioch scored first goal of the season off a deflection through traffic to tie the game again at 18:51.
Neither team scored in overtime, despite a combined nine shots on goal (Islanders-5, Senators-4), setting the stage for the Islanders’ shootout heroics.
After the game, Boyes said the two standings points were even more rewarding than usual, given the focus the team has put on winning tight, low-scoring games.
“Today we just found a way,” Boyes said. “We’ve played games like this that have gone the other way. They got that power play at the end of the game and they scored off a bad bounce, and we’ve had a couple of bad bounces that have hurt us even more. This was important today. We need to get up and keep climbing. It’s definitely rewarding, but it’s a feeling we need to remember and continue to have.”
The Islanders hope to build more momentum Tuesday, March 5, when the Montreal Canadiens visit the Coliseum for the first time this season for a 7:00 p.m. tilt. The last time the two teams met was in Montreal on Feb. 21, when the Islanders skated to a 4-3 overtime victory.
Notes: The Islanders finished with three goals for the first time this season … Frans Nielsen and John Tavares are both 2-for-2 in the shootout this season … Evgeni Nabokov has stopped all four shots faced in the shootout this season … Lubomir Visnovsky led the Islanders with 26:28 of ice time, and the team is 2-0-0 when he leads in that category … The Islanders outshot the Senators 35-31, and had another 39 shot attempts that were blocked or missed the target … Travis Hamonic led all players with six shots on goal … Matt Martin led all players with 11 hits … Andrew MacDonald led the team with five blocks … New York had a 28-27 edge in the faceoff circle, thanks to Casey Cizikas’ 7-for-9 (78%) performance.