The Islanders relinquished a 3-1 lead, but showed resolve in beating the Montreal Canadiens 6-3 Tuesday at Nassau Coliseum. Six different Islanders lit the lamp in the team’s second consecutive win, while goaltender Evgeni Nabokov turned aside 29-of-32 Montreal shots.
The home team’s two-goal lead vanished six minutes into the third period, but less than two minutes later, Radek Martinek scored his first goal of the season to put the Islanders ahead for good. The Islanders have five points in their last three games and improved to 10-11-2 (22 points) overall, one point behind Philadelphia for the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference.
“Tonight was a physical game and it resembled a playoff game,” Matt Martin said. “We responded well. Everyone played gritty and tough, and that’s exactly the way we need to play to be successful.”
Both teams went 2-for-5 on the power play. The Islanders’ man advantage goals both came in the second period, helping to turn a one-goal deficit into a lead. The Canadiens’ special-teams strikes eliminated a two-goal Islander lead late in the second and early in the third periods.
“Special teams were a huge factor,” Islanders Head Coach Jack Capuano said. “They tied it up, but we were resilient and came back. We tilted the ice a little bit after their goals and got some chances. Nabby made some big saves when we needed him. It’s a character win for our guys, but we need some players to step it up. We have to make sure that against the quality teams that we play every night that all 20 guys are going.”
Tomas Plekanec scored on an unobstructed shot from the slot to open the scoring and put Montreal ahead 1-0. Alex Galchenyuk’s pass found the center, who one-timed it past Nabokov at 5:21 of the first period.
The Islanders came on strong in the second, lighting the lamp three times to take the lead. Matt Moulson tied the game on the power play early in the middle period. Mark Streit entered the zone and skated to the left wing boards before threading a pass through to the right wing for his 11th goal of the season at 1:23.
Seconds after an Islanders 5-on-3 power play expired, Matt Martin gave his club a 2-1 lead with his first career power play marker. Brad Boyes made a pass from down low across the slot to Martin, who easily beat Carey Price for his second goal of the season midway through the second.
“It was a hard working play,” Martin said. “John (Tavares) was battling along the wall and [Brad Boyes] picked up the puck and made a great feed to me. I was able to one-time it to the back of the net.”
The Islanders found themselves in penalty trouble later in the period, when Andrew MacDonald and Streit were penalized 1:41 apart. Following the abbreviated 5-on-3 power play, the Canadiens’ PK Subban scored to cut the Islanders lead to 3-2.
The Canadiens’ tying goal came courtesy of Brian Gionta, six minutes into the third period. The Islanders were unable to clear their zone, and Gionta scooped up a Subban rebound in front of Nabokov. Michael Ryder, who also earned assists on the first two Montreal goals, picked up his third helper of the night on the play.
Less than two minutes later, Martinek gave the Islanders the lead with his first goal since Oct. 12, 2011. The 11-year veteran fired a puck from the left point that beat the Montreal goaltender at 7:56.
“(Martinek’s) got a great shot,” Capuano said. “Maybe one of the hardest shots I’ve seen. The D usually score some big goals, and we stress them getting pucks to the net.”
The Islanders hit the ice again Thursday, March 7, when the New York Rangers make their first trip of the season to Nassau Coliseum. Game time is set for 7:00 p.m.
Notes: Thomas Hickey posted the first two assists of his NHL career … All three of his points at the NHL level have come against Montreal … Mark Streit led the Islanders with 25:01 of ice time … John Tavares was not on the ice for Matt Moulson’s second period goal, marking the first time he was not on for a Moulson tally since November 26, 2011 (breaks streak of 39 Moulson goals) … Travis Hamonic led all players with six blocked shots … Colin McDonald and Matt Martin tied for a game-high six hits.