SAN JOSE, Calif. – Kevin Poulin kept the struggling New York Islanders in the game long enough for their top line to give the team a much-needed win.
Kyle Okposo scored the tying goal with 1:37 left in regulation and got the game-winner in the fourth round of a shootout to help the Islanders snap a 10-game losing streak with a 3-2 victory over the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday night.
“This is a very good feeling,” said captain John Tavares, who assisted on both goals. “It gives us some confidence, but at the same time we can’t relax. They came out hard and Poulie did a great job of keeping us in it until we finally generated some momentum.”
Poulin made 18 of his 46 saves in a stellar first period and also stopped three of four attempts in the shootout despite needing help from the trainer after feeling dehydrated following a pad save against Joe Pavelski in the first round.
Thomas Vanek also scored in the third period and shootout for the Islanders, who had lost 10 straight in regulation on the road as well as the 10 in a row overall.
“This was big for us,” Okposo said. “They’re a good team. As bad as we played in the first period, to stick with it all game and go into the third period down 2-0, to get this win was huge.”
Patrick Marleau and Pavelski scored for the Sharks, who blew a 2-0 lead and have lost four straight. Antti Niemi made 26 saves.
“Third period in our building up 2-0, we’ve got to win those games,” Pavelski said.
The Sharks seemed to be in control heading into the third, but the game changed after Vanek knocked in a rebound of Tavares’ shot in the opening minute of the period. The Islanders controlled play for much of the rest of the period before getting the equalizer shortly after pulling Poulin for an extra skater.
Tavares cleanly won a faceoff from Pavelski, and Okposo fired a shot through a screen by Vanek that beat Niemi.
“Johnny has done a great job for us on drops,” Okposo said. “I was looking to find someone but I had a lane and I tried to get it in there. It had eyes.”
After being stopped on their first 23 shots by Poulin, the Sharks finally broke through early in the second when they got their fourth power play thanks to an after-the-whistle roughing penalty against Matt Carkner.
San Jose made the Islanders pay right away for that lack of discipline when Marleau got a rebound in the circle and shot it under a diving Poulin to make it 1-0. The Sharks had converted three of their previous 42 chances on the power play.
The Islanders, playing the back end of back-to-back games, got few chances and little luck early. They finally got a power-play chance midway through the second period, but Vanek hit the post and the rebound skipped over Tavares’ stick.
The Sharks added to the lead later in the period when Pavelski knocked a rebound of Dan Boyle’s shot into an empty net for his 10th goal to make it 2-0.
The Sharks thoroughly dominated the opening period, outshooting the Islanders 18-3 and getting three power plays. They even had a two-man advantage after Eric Boulton and Travis Hamonic took consecutive delay-of-game penalties.
Despite all that, they couldn’t get a single puck past Poulin. He robbed Marleau with a blind pad stop during a delayed penalty for his best save and made five stops on the three power plays to keep the game scoreless after one.
“Poulin tonight was incredible,” Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. “Give him full marks for the saves he made, especially early in the game. But we can’t let teams or goaltenders hang around like we are right now. We have open nets, we have second-chance opportunities that we’re not bearing down on. That makes a huge difference in our game.”
NOTES: The 18 shots were the second-most for the Sharks in a scoreless first period, one behind the team record of 19 set Dec. 30, 2006, at Phoenix. … Former Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov, sidelined with a groin injury, got a loud ovation when he was shown on the video board in his first trip back to San Jose as a visiting player.