The New York Islanders bounced back from a frustrating performance Thursday night in St. Louis to defeat the Carolina Hurricanes 4-3 at the Nassau Coliseum Saturday night. John Tavares scored twice and added an assist while both Mark Streit and P.A. Parenteau had a pair of assists to pace the Islanders attack. Rookie goalie Kevin Poulin, just recalled from Bridgeport on an emergency basis, made 33 saves to earn the win.
The two outburst ended an eight game goalless slump for Tavares. “It’s nice for me to capitalize on what I do best,” Tavares said. “It probably wasn’t our best game, but we found a way and we turned it up when we had to.”
“It’s easy to see that when John goes well, it really lifts our team,” Islanders Coach Jack Capuano said.
This was a vital game for the Islanders who entered the game one point ahead of the Hurricanes with a game in hand. A home game against a team below them in the standings was a must win for the Islanders if they hoped to remain in the hunt for a playoff berth.
It didn’t take long for the Islanders to get on the scoreboard. Kyle Okposo took a nice cross ice pass from Michael Grabner and beat Carolina goalie Cam Ward with a one-timer from the right circle to make it 1-0 Isles just 2:07 into the game.
Brandon Sutter tied the game on a 2-on-1 breakaway at 13:47 of the first period. A rookie mistake by defenseman Aaron Ness led to the odd-man rush and Sutter converted Patrick Dwyer’s pass to even the score.
The Canes broke ahead just 15 seconds into the second period when Jiri Tlusty converted a mini-break off a turnover by Mark Eaton to make it 2-1. Tlusty put home the rebound of a shot by Jerome Samson.
Tavares tied the game less than four minutes later on a highlight reel goal. He took the puck at his own blue line and skated down the right wing, powered past defenseman Jaroslav Spacek and then beat Ward to the far post.
The Islanders power play struck at the 8:01 mark of the second stanza to put the home team ahead 3-2. Three cross ice passes led to the goal with Tavares finding Frans Nielsen alone at the right circle. A quick one-timer beat Ward who couldn’t keep up with the Isles quick puck movement.
The Canes evened the score less than three minutes later on a goal by Spacek right off a faceoff in the Islanders zone. Eric Staal won the draw and got it back to Spacek at the left point. The defenseman blasted the puck past Poulin and the game was tied 3-3.
Despite giving up the lead for the second time in the game, the Isles still believed they would find a way to win the game. “I was confident,” Poulin said. “We went into the third and knew we were going to win.”
The Hurricanes had to play the third period without Ward, who left with a strained groin. Justin Peters replaced him to start the third period and had to come into the game cold.
It didn’t take long for the Islanders to take advantage of the Canes new netminder. It was Tavares again, doing what great players do, coming through when his team needed him most. Just 38 seconds into the period, the Islanders had a flurry of shots in front of Peters and Tavares poked the third rebound home for what proved to be the game winning goal.
The Canes had several chances to tie the game including a rebound in the slot by Jeff Skinner with just a few seconds left on the clock, but Poulin stopped all 12 shots he faced in the third period and the Islanders held on for a 4-3 win.
“We made a few mistakes, but we picked up each other and that’s what it’s all about if you want to win in this league,” Parenteau added. “The guys showed a lot of character. They battled all night. We didn’t quit.”
With the win and a loss by the Maple Leafs, the Isles pulled to within six points of Toronto in the race for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Islanders also have a game in hand.
The Isles return to the ice Monday afternoon when they host the Ottawa Senators in a President’s Day matinee. The Hurricanes will return home to host division rival Washington Monday night.
Ty Wishart, Tim Wallace and Evgeni Nabokov were the Isles scratches while Tuomo Ruutu and Chad LaRose sat out for Carolina.
The Isles are now 10-2-1 in games that were even after two periods.
The Isles swept the four-game season series from the Hurricanes this year. Both of Poulin’s NHL wins this season have come against Carolina.