Blake Comeau scored with less than a minute remaining in overtime to give the New York Islanders a 4-3 victory over the visiting Toronto Maple Leafs at the Nassau Coliseum Tuesday.
Comeau managed to redirect a blast from the right point by Radek Martinek and got the puck over the shoulder of Leafs goalie James Reimer. It was gratifying for the Islanders forward who had hit two posts earlier in the game.
“Everyone was getting some chances,” Comeau explained. “[Matt] Moulson hit a post, I hit a couple of posts. It seems we weren’t catching those little breaks but we did a good job of sticking together and sticking to what we had to do and it was a big two points.”
While the Islanders generally outplayed the Leafs and outshot them 40-27, the win did not come easily. Three times New York took a one goal lead in this game and three times the Leafs came back to tie it. The Islanders were fortunate Toronto did not get another chance in sudden death.
After a scoreless first period, Zenon Konopka got the Islanders on the board when he redirected a hard shot by Milan Jurcina at the 2:15 mark. The lead only lasted 34 seconds, however, as Keith Aulie lifted a shot over Al Montoya’s shoulder to tie the game at 1-1. It was Aulie’s first NHL goal.
Frans Nielsen put home the rebound of a shot by Andrew MacDonald to put the Islanders ahead 2-1 but Tim Brent answered back for the Leafs with 1:16 left in the period when he stuffed home the puck during a scramble in the crease.
The teams again traded goals midway through the third period with Michael Grabner’s 27th of the year putting the Isles ahead but Nikolai Kulemin answered 1:08 later with his 25th to even the score at 3-3.
Toronto put a lot of pressure on the Isles net in the final minute of regulation, winning several consecutive battles for loose pucks but Montoya stood his ground and the Islanders escaped to overtime where Comeau netted the game winner.
“You have to keep battling and that’s the resiliency of our team right now,” Islanders Coach Jack Capuano said. “Night in and night out, we’re showing it [resiliency]. I thought that we were pretty good on the bench tonight and when we got down, we still believed in one another. We believed that we were going to get that next one.”
The win puts the Isles 10 points behind the Buffalo Sabres for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
“We’re not out of it yet,” Comeau added. “As long as we keep winning, crazier things have happened.”
The Islanders return to action Friday night when they host the Boston Bruins.
Trevor Gillies sat out due to his suspension and he was the only Isles scratch. Fredrik Sjostrom and Jonas Gustavsson were the Leafs scratches.
Matt Martin was awarded a penalty shot at the 7:45 mark of the second period when he was held up on a breakaway. Reimer made a glove save on the penalty shot attempt.
Al Montoya has yet to allow a first period goal in 11 games. He has improved his record to 6-2-2 on the season.