UNIONDALE, N.Y. – It was still 2007 the last time home felt like an advantage to the New York Islanders.
That changed Tuesday when Trent Hunter broke out of his offensive funk and paced the Islanders’ most productive night in quite some time. Hunter scored a goal and set up two others for New York, which broke a pair of seven-game skids with a 4-3 victory over the slumping Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday night.
The Islanders did it with a season-best 47 shots.
“It was a nice to get that win and it gives us something to build on,” said Hunter, who hadn’t scored since Jan. 11. “We can’t relax. We have to focus, and we’ve got a big job ahead of us.”
New York hadn’t won at home since beating New Jersey on Dec. 29 (0-5-2). The Islanders also didn’t have a victory anywhere since a 6-3 win at Carolina on Jan. 22.
Jeff Tambellini and Sean Bergenheim added goals in the second period for the Islanders, who are tied for 12th in the Eastern Conference, and beat the Flyers for the first time in four meetings this season.
Ruslan Fedotenko scored with 5:58 to restore the Islanders’ two-goal lead, before Joffrey Lupul cut it to 4-3 with 59.6 seconds remaining. New York killed Fedotenko’s roughing penalty in the final minute to preserve the victory.
“We have been struggling a little bit at home and that was a big win for us, especially against a division team,” Fedotenko said. “It’s really important, especially at this time of the year.”
Rick DiPietro made 26 saves to win for the first time since Jan. 16 and send the injury-riddled Flyers to their fourth straight regulation loss.
Danny Briere and Scott Hartnell also scored for Philadelphia, missing forwards Simon Gagne and Scottie Upshall and defenceman Braydon Coburn. Antero Niittymaki stopped 43 shots.
“Before Christmas, it seemed like we were carrying most of the games,” said forward Mike Richards, who failed on a second-period breakaway. “Now, we’re falling behind and then showing urgency at the end. We need to play a full 60 minutes.”
The late-arriving crowd, delayed by a snowstorm, was entertained by the second-period offence and a fashion show featuring wives of Islanders players on “Hockey and Heels” night.
Hunter broke the scoreless deadlock with 2:18 left in the first, netting his eighth overall and first in 14 games.
“We’ve been saying for the past week or so to get bodies to the net. Just get pucks there and cause traffic,” Hunter said. “You never know where pucks are going to bounce.”
New York racked up 17 shots in the period and faced only 11, despite giving Philadelphia two power plays without owning any.
One was doubly costly to the Islanders, who lost top defenceman Brendan Witt after a knee-to-knee collision with Hartnell in the neutral zone just past the nine-minute mark. Witt was whistled for tripping and then sidelined by a bruised knee.
Philadelphia needed only 50 seconds of its fourth power play to get even. Briere put a rebound past a sprawled DiPietro for his 21st goal 1:05 into the second.
The rest of the period belonged to New York.
DiPietro kept it tied when Richards raced in on a short-handed breakaway, forcing him to miss wide left about 3 1/2 minutes into the period.
“I thought I had him beat if I could have kept control of the puck,” Richards said. “It goes in, and we’re in the lead. Instead, they took the lead right after that. You have to expect to score, not hope to score.”
Tambellini made it 2-1 at 5:27 when he intercepted a pass from Flyers captain Jason Smith and wristed a shot under Niittymaki’s right arm. It was the first NHL goal this season in 12 games for Tambellini, who leads the AHL with 28 goals.
“You don’t want to go too long without putting the puck in,” he said.
New York nearly stretched its lead just past the midway mark of the period, but Smith went from defenceman to goalie after Niittymaki was out of position and blocked Tambellini’s shot while on his side in front of the net.
He couldn’t do anything about Bergenheim’s breakaway goal after another turnover. Hunter sent a pass from New York’s end to Bergenheim, who raced in front of defenceman Kimmo Timonen and bore down on Niittymaki.
Timonen hooked down Bergenheim, but the Islanders forward slung in a shot to make it 3-1 with 6:19 left.
“We were better the last two games, but we still need to win,” Briere said. “We had a long meeting to talk about it. We’re close, but close is not good enough.”
Notes: Islanders D Bruno Gervais sat out due to a strained oblique muscle. … Gagne (concussion) and Coburn (buttocks) missed their second games, and Upshall (ankle) his third. … Hartnell had a hat trick on Long Island on Jan. 19.