John Tavares and Lubomir Visnovsky scored goals and the New York Islanders were tied after 40 minutes, but allowed three third-period goals in a 5-2 loss to the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday at Nassau Coliseum. The loss was the Islanders second in a row, dropping them one game below .500 to 13-14-3.
Montreal’s Brian Gionta scored early in the third period off an Islanders turnover, and a pair of goals 33 seconds apart put the Canadiens in front for good. The Canadiens power play accounted for its first two goals and went 2-for-4 overall, spoiling Kevin Poulin’s second start in goal for the Islanders this season.
After the game, Tavares described the Islanders’ recent third-period struggles.
“We’ve got to have that killer instinct and understand that we can’t lay off the gas pedal a little bit just because we’ve got the lead or we’re playing well,” Tavares said. “The first 40 minutes of the last few games have been pretty good for us. We should be confident. We want to play with the lead. It takes a lot out of you to come back.”
Michael Ryder sent a shot through traffic to give Montreal a 1-0 lead halfway through the first period. Andrei Markov and Tomas Plekanec earned assists on the power-play goal.
Two minutes later, Tavares’ 18th goal of the season tied the game at 1-1. Tavares entered the zone on a 2-on-1 with Brad Boyes and the Montreal defender played the pass. The Islanders center took advantage of the extra space and cut to the middle before firing a wrister through Carey Price. Matt Moulson assisted on the goal, giving him helpers in six straight games.
The Islanders controlled the play early in the second and took a 2-1 lead at the 6:58 mark on Lubomir Visnovsky’s second score in as many games. The line of Tavares, Moulson and Boyes worked the puck through the Montreal defense with a series of finesse passes before Visnovsky picked up a rebound and found the back of the net. Moulson and Boyes had the last two touches before the goal, and were credited with assists.
But four minutes later, PK Subban tied the game at 2-2 on the man advantage. His one-time blast from Tomas Plekanec evaded everyone on its way to the back of the cage.
The teams skated to the dressing room tied, but the Canadiens controlled the third period.
Early in the third, a turnover inside the Islanders blue line led to Gionta’s 10th goal of the season. David Desharnais collected the puck at the top of the zone and sent a pass that was deflected over Poulin’s pads to give the Canadiens a 3-2 lead.
Just after the midway mark, Subban’s second of the evening doubled the Canadiens’ lead. The defenseman fired home a long rebound from the right wing boards that glanced off an Islanders defenseman. On the ensuing shift, Brendan Gallagher banked a puck off the post that made its way into Poulin’s equipment before squirting loose and slowly crossing the goal line.
Islanders captain Mark Streit expressed his frustrations with the unlucky goals.
“We gave up pretty easy goals,” Streit said. “Every once in a while we get our own luck as well, but there’s not much of an excuse. It’s simply not acceptable.”
Notes: The Islanders went 0-for-4 on the power play, with 46 seconds remaining on a 5-on-4 as the game ended … Matt Moulson earned two assists tonight, and has seven helpers in his last six games … Mark Streit led the team with 23:18 of ice time … Moulson led all players with six shots on goal … Colin McDonald had a game-high four hits … Lubomir Visnovsky led the Islanders with three blocked shots … The Islanders won 33-of-65 faceoffs, and were led by Keith Aucoin (6-of-10, 60%).