Going to his patented backhand move, Isles center Frans Nielsen scored the lone goal in the shootout to lift the Islanders 2-1 over the Minnesota Wild in their first non-regulation win of the season.
“It’s the West against the East so it really doesn’t matter if it was overtime or regulation, but it was nice to get the win,” Nielsen said. “It would have been a tough loss if we didn’t win tonight because I really liked the way we played.”
Islanders Head Coach Jack Capuano added: “We did a lot of good things tonight. It was a game they deserved to win.”
Part of the win was the effort from the Islanders defense.
“I thought our D played much better,” Capuano said. “We communicated well. We used each other, especially in our neutral zone on transition tonight, but our D played well in the D zone. Our angles, our sticks, our D zone coverage and our positioning was good tonight.”
Goaltender Al Montoya, who denied all three of Minnesota’s shooters in the skills competition, saved 20-of-21 shots through 65 minutes of play. The Isles peppered Wild netminder Niklas Backstrom with 36 shots, outshooting Minnesota 24-9 through the first two periods.
“We played really well,” said Islanders defenseman Andrew MacDonald. “I thought we made really good decisions on our breakouts when we had to and sustained some good pressure. We tried to get the puck in behind their D and just work hard. I think we had some good end-zone presence and we were successful.”
MacDonald notched a goal at 11:13 of the second period, his first game back after missing seven due to a right leg injury, to give the Isles a 1-0 lead. Matt Moulson rushed the net for two quick shots around the crease, but John Tavares cycled the puck up to MacDonald at the top of the circle. The Isles blue liner fired a slap shot, beating Backstrom low blocker side.
“I felt good,” MacDonald said of his return to game action. “I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel. I had a couple practices under my belt, but while I was out, I was doing a lot of conditioning and trying to keep up with everything. It certainly paid off.”
But the Wild rebounded in the third period, coming out of the gates much stronger and faster than they had in the previous 40 minutes. Cal Clutterbuck tied the score at 8:22, scooping in a rebound at the paint.
“They came hard,” Nielsen said of Minnesota. “They started shooting the puck, entering the zone and that kind of started their forecheck. We didn’t know where the rebounds where going or what corner to go in. They got the pressure on us and they got a goal, a tough goal they got there, but I think we answered well and came back in the game.”
Showing that resiliency to pull out their first extra-time victory of the season has put the Isles in the right direction as they continue their road trip out West with a stop in Travis Hamonic’s hometown to face the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday.
1 - 0 NYI