The New York Islanders set out to play spoiler again Saturday night against the Carolina Hurricanes and after two periods they led 2-1. But unlike the Rangers on Thursday, the Canes played with desperation and scored three third period goals en route to a 4-2 comeback win.
“I don’t think we played too bad tonight,” Isles center John Tavares said. “Obviously, the last game was a really emotional one. We talked about making sure that we were re-focused for this game. It’s our third game in four nights. I thought we moved our feet pretty well the first two periods, but parts of the third we didn’t. Then they got that third one and we kind of stopped skating.”
After Jussi Jokinen gave Carolina a 1-0 lead 4:47 into the game, the Islanders picked up their game and evened the score on Jesse Joensuu’s sixth goal of the year. Joensuu skated hard down the right wing and let go a wrist shot from the top of the circle that beat goalie Cam Ward to the far post.
“Jack [Hillen] put the puck into our own corner,” Joensuu said. “I saw that no one was around me so I was able to gather some speed. I didn’t feel like I could have taken him wide so I wanted to shoot from his feet so the goalie wouldn’t see it. I was lucky that it went in.”
The Isles took a 2-1 lead 7:05 into the second period when Tavares redirected a shot by Matt Moulson from just inside the blueline that beat Ward. The Isles maintained the lead through two periods and looked to be in a good position to win their second straight game against a team fighting to earn one of the final Eastern Conference playoff spots.
But while Carolina only managed six shots on goal in the third period, they picked up their tempo and took control of the game during the final 20 minutes.
Joe Corvo tied the game just 3:02 into the third period when he redirected Tim Gleason’s shot from the point. There were two Hurricanes players in front of the Isles’ net to screen goalie Al Montoya.
Erik Cole scored the game winner just over three minutes later when he tipped a shot by Eric Staal past Montoya just seconds after a Carolina power play expired.
The Islanders had the man advantage for the final 1:32 after Jamie McBain was called for delay of game. Matt Martin nearly tied the game during the power play but Staal put the icing on the cake with an empty net goal with 47.6 seconds left.
“They just came hard,” Montoya said when asked about the Canes. “That was there season, the third period. But for us, if we want to move forward as a winning team and continue this, in the third periods, we have to put teams away.”
The Islanders return to action Wednesday night when they travel to Boston to take on the Bruins.
Prior to the game, Frans Nielsen was named the 2010-11 Bobby Nystrom Award winner. Nielsen missed the game due to a head injury suffered against the Rangers. Bruno Gervais and Milan Jurcina also were scratched. Carolina sat Troy Bodie and Jay Harrison.
The Canes were assessed a bench minor for not putting the same players on the ice to start the game that they listed on their official lineup.