UNIONDALE, N.Y. – The New York Islanders started the day with the worst record in the Eastern Conference and then they lost their starting goalie in the first period.
But Rick DiPietro made sure they didn’t lose the most important thing, Thursday night’s home game against the Montreal Canadiens.
DiPietro made 24 saves in relief of injured starter Evgeni Nabokov, and Matt Moulson scored a key goal in the Islanders’ 4-3 victory that broke a four-game skid.
“Tonight was a big step in the right direction,” said DiPietro, who earned his first NHL relief win. “We need to play with some desperation and urgency.”
P.A. Parenteau, Jay Pandolfo, and Mark Streit also scored for the Islanders, 0-3-1 in their previous four. New York, which scored all of its goals in the second period, held on after taking a 3-0 lead.
“We just took advantage,” said forward John Tavares, who was plus-one with an assist in 18:58 of ice time. “We managed to hold the boat. We played pretty well and we used the offensive zone really well.”
DiPietro replaced Nabokov 7:55 in after Nabokov injured a groin while making a pad save on Yannick Weber. Nabokov, who made two saves, will be re-evaluated on Friday.
Max Pacioretty, Erik Cole and Brian Gionta scored for the Canadiens, who beat Carolina at home on Wednesday. Peter Budaj stopped 29 shots. Montreal had won three of four.
The Islanders built their 3-0 lead within a 9:08 span in the second period and led 4-2 at intermission. Parenteau opened the scoring 41 seconds in with a backhander that went in off of Budaj.
“It’s nice to get a little bit of luck,” Parenteau said. “We were moving the puck pretty well after that.”
Pandolfo tipped in a centring feed from Josh Bailey past Budaj 2:20 after Parenteau’s goal. It was Pandolfo’s 100th NHL goal in his 15-year career.
Streit’s second goal of the season made it 3-0. He scored off a pass from Matt Martin while driving the crease.
“It’s a tough thing,” Budaj said. “It’s tough to lose like that. I have to be better with my puck-handling, and today wasn’t a good day for that. A couple mistakes, a couple breakdowns cost us two points.”
Montreal cut the deficit to 3-2 with goals from Pacioretty and Cole in a span of 2:36. Pacioretty one-timed Lars Eller’s pass past DiPietro at 14:52. Eller intercepted Mike Mottau’s clearing pass and found Pacioretty for his ninth. Cole netted his fifth of the season over a prone DiPietro at 17:38.
“When I have a chance to score a goal, my confidence is there,” Pacioretty said. “At the end of the day you wish you could have done more to help your team. We came out flat-footed in the first.
“You have to play a full 60 minutes. We just got away from our game. You don’t like to see it happen, but it did.”
Just as it seemed Montreal wrestled momentum away from New York, Moulson ripped a drive from the right circle with 1:45 remaining in the second to put the Islanders ahead 4-2.
DiPietro made that stand up. Montreal had two power plays in the third period, but took advantage of only one. Gionta made it 4-3 with 4:18 remaining.
“He was good,” Mike Cammalleri said of DiPietro. “He seemed like he had some confidence going. He was challenging and playing an aggressive style.”
DiPietro robbed P.K. Subban during the Canadiens’ first advantage of the period. Subban tilted his head to the rafters after DiPietro snared his drive.
“It was interesting at the end. We won, that’s the bottom line,” New York coach Jack Capuano said. “Ricky played well.”
The Canadiens were 1 for 4 overall on the power play. New York went 0 for 3.
“Positives were special teams, we got another goal on the power play and penalty killing,” Montreal coach Jacques Martin said. “But the bottom line is that we lost the game.”
NOTES: The Canadiens said that former head equipment manager Eddy Palchak died on Wednesday night. Palchak, who was 71, worked for the Canadiens for 31 years, starting in the 1966-67 season. … Montreal D Hal Gill was hospitalized with a virus and missed his third game. … The announced attendance was 9,928. . The Islanders will debut their new third jerseys when they host Philadelphia on Wednesday.