Radek Martinek and Matt Martin lived up to an old sports cliche and helped the Islanders down the Montreal Canadiens 6-3 at the Nassau Coliseum Tuesday night.
The Islanders were playing the game without Lubomir Visnovsky who returned home to Slovakia after the tragic death of a close friend’s child. So, the old saying in sports is, “Next man up” and both Martinek and Martin did just that.
Coach Jack Capuano inserted Martinek into the lineup in Visnovsky’s absence while Matt Martin was added to the power play unit to set screens and be disruptive in front of the Montreal net. The result: Martin notched his first career power play goal and added an assist while Martinek scored the game winner that put the Isles ahead for good through the third period.
“Tonight was a physical game and it resembled a playoff game,” Martin said. “We responded well. Everyone played gritty and tough, and that’s exactly the way we need to play to be successful.”
The Canadiens controlled the first period and led 1-0 on a goal by Tomas Plekanec just 5:21 into the game but after that, the Islanders stepped up and played better in the second stanza. Matt Moulson tied the game 1-1 with a power play goal 1:23 into the second period off a pretty pass by Mark Streit before Martin cashed in with this first power play goal midway through the game.
“It was a hard working play,” Martin said. “John [Tavares] was battling along the wall and 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.”
Michael Grabner’s one-timer 48 seconds later gave the Isles a 3-1 lead but two plays by Montreal defenseman P.K. Subban tied the score. First, Subban scored a power play goal at the 16:49 mark of the second on a rifle shot from the point. Then, his heavy shot set up Brian Gionta for another power play goal on a rebound at the 6:07 mark of the third period and the game was quickly tied 3-3.
But instead of folding, the Isles answered back and took the lead for good on Martinek’s blast from the point at 7:56 of the third period.
“It felt good,” Martinek said. “Especially after what I went through in the past year. It’s good to score.”
John Tavares scored on a rebound from just outside the crease with 1:07 left in the game to make it 5-3 Islanders before Colin McDonald iced the win with an empty net goal with 17 seconds left on the clock.
Overall, it was a satisfying win for the Isles over a red-hot team that entered the game in first place overall in the Eastern Conference.
“It was a huge win,” Martin said. “We wanted to make sure we came in and played a good hockey game. We got a got a good win the other night but we couldn’t afford to drop another one. We came out and played hard. We didn’t play well in the first period but we came back and responded well and really took it to them in the second and third. We can be proud of this win tonight.”
The Isles return to action Thursday when they host the Rangers at the Nassau Coliseum. Islanders tickets for this and other games are available.
The goal by Gionta was the 20,000th NHL goal in the history of the Canadiens franchise.
Travis Hamonic had six blocked shots to lead the Islanders.
Thomas Hickey picked up two assists in the game, the first two of his NHL career. Hickey’s first goal also came against Montreal earlier this season.
The win was the third straight for the Isles against Montreal.