RALEIGH, N.C. – The New York Islanders were far from their best against the lowly Carolina Hurricanes, but they were still rewarded with their third straight victory.
The fact they did enough to escape with a 4-3 shootout victory on Tuesday night was encouraging in a season that has provided New York with little to smile about.
“We didn’t have our ‘A’ game, but we were able to find a way to win,” Islanders forward Kyle Okposo said. “That’s what happens when a team is starting to go a little bit, you start to find ways to win games. We’ve got to continue to do that.”
After Okposo tied it 3-3 with 1:30 remaining, Frans Nielsen scored the deciding goal in the shootout to help the Islanders match their best winning streak of the season. John Tavares had three assists for New York (14-17-6), including a perfect feed to Okposo on the tying goal.
“I was able to get it through the little maze there, and Kyle did a good job of putting it in,” Tavares said. “It was a big goal for us.”
Nielsen and Matt Moulson had the Islanders’ other goals, and Evgeni Nabokov made 37 saves.
Chad LaRose, Brandon Sutter and Anthony Stewart scored for Carolina (13-21-7), and Cam Ward made 33 saves in the matchup of the bottom two teams in the Eastern Conference.
“We’ve got to get that killer instinct when we get that opportunity,” Carolina coach Kirk Muller said. “We had chances. We didn’t capitalize. We let them hang around, and they’ve got some good offensive players.”
After Islanders forward P.A. Parenteau and Carolina’s Jussi Jokinen traded goals to start the shootout, Nielsen skated in and shifted to his backhand to beat Ward.
LaRose gave Carolina a 3-2 lead with 4:14 left in regulation. LaRose skated out from the corner with the puck and met little resistance as he got closer to the net. He slid the puck along the ice and past Nabokov’s left pad.
Despite their poor records, both teams have had reasons for optimism recently. The Hurricanes had won three straight at home, their best streak there since last March. The Islanders were 6-6-2 in December before beating Carolina in their first game of the new year.
New York took a 1-0 lead less than four minutes in when Moulson finished a nice passing play from Tavares and Nielsen.
With the Islanders on the power play, Tavares centred the puck from behind the net to Moulson, who snapped the puck past Ward’s blocker. Carolina answered 31 seconds later when Stewart tipped Jay Harrison’s shot past Nabokov.
The Hurricanes took a 2-1 lead when Nabokov held onto the puck too long behind the Islanders net. Drayson Bowman stole the puck from the unsuspecting Nabokov and shovelled it out to Sutter, who was standing in the crease for a shot into a wide-open net.
The Islanders tied it early in the third period on the power play when Mark Streit took a shot from the point. That shot sailed wide of the net, but the rebound bounced off the boards to Nielsen, who had little trouble smacking the puck into the net with Ward out of position.
Carolina was 10-1-2 this season when leading after two periods, and the Islanders won for the first time when trailing after 40 minutes (1-15-2).
“It wasn’t pretty on our part,” Parenteau said. “I don’t think we played a particularly strong game, but the power play was clicking, and we’ve been pretty good on the shootout lately.”
NOTES: Carolina swept the season series between the teams last season, outscoring the Islanders 18-8. … The Hurricanes announced that D Joni Pitkanen will miss four weeks following surgery on his left knee.