MONTREAL – Soft-spoken Mikko Koskinen was not jumping down but the excitement in his eyes was clearly evident after the 22-year-old posted his first NHL win for the New York Islanders before 21,273 spectators at the Bell Centre.
”It was awesome,” the six-foot-six goalie said after stopping 37 shots in regulation time and all four he faced in a shootout to lift the lowly Islanders to a 4-3 victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday night.
”It was one of the best wins of my life. I would like to play every game in front of this kind of crowd. It was fun.”
Kyle Okposo scored the only goal in four rounds of the shootout against Alex Auld, who made his eighth start in place of Carey Price.
Koskinen was making his second career start after being called up from Bridgeport of the AHL to aid an Islander goaltending corps that has lost Rick DiPietro, Nathan Lawson and Kevin Poulin to injuries the past three weeks, not to mention the Jan. 2 trade of veteran Dwayne Roloson to Tampa Bay.
He said he felt no nerves as the game went to penalty shots.
”I know I’m pretty good at shootouts, and they don’t know me,” he said.
Michael Grabner’s second goal of the game at 4:08 of the third made it 3-3 and forced overtime. Matt Moulson appeared to have the win on his stick with 42 seconds left in regulation time after a James Wisniewski giveaway but hit the post.
John Tavares also scored for the Islanders (18-29-7), the last-place team in the Eastern Conference that is 3-5-0 in its last eight. The Isles split their four-game season series with Montreal.
Max Pacioretty, Tomas Plekanec and Benoit Pouliot had goals for Montreal (30-20-6), which is winless in three games heading into a Saturday night meeting with the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Bell Centre.
The Canadiens were still battered and bruised from a fight-filled 8-6 loss in Boston on Wednesday night. They looked as lifeless as the dispirited Islanders until the pace picked up for both sides with the score tied in the third.
Coach Jacques Martin will give his team a rare day off Friday to rest up for the Leafs.
”It was an emotional game in Boston and it was especially difficult for our older guys on defence,” said Martin. ”We ask a lot of Roman Hamrlik and Jaroslav Spacek to play back-to-back games.
”I thought we showed some emotion. (David) Desharnais, (Benoit) Pouliot and (Ryan) White gave us a strong game. The kids have elevated their game and that’s encouraging.”
The Canadiens were without defenceman Hal Gill, who Martin said has an upper body injury, and forward Mathieu Darche, who has a lower body ailment. Both are unlikely to be ready by Saturday.
Montreal scored first at 14:10 with each team short a man as Desharnais slid a pass against the flow to Pacioretty, who beat Koskinen.
Tavares tied it with his 19th goal of the season two minutes later as he worked in from the slot and lifted one over Auld. It was the 2009 first overall draft pick’s first goal in 11 games since his hat trick Jan. 15 against Buffalo.
White, recalled earlier in the day from Hamilton of the AHL, dug a puck out from behind the net and fed Pouliot for a goal 5:49 into the second.
The rookie Grabner split the defence from the blue-line and scored at 17:10 before Plekanec put Montreal back ahead.
Plekanec picked up his 300th career point as he elected to shoot on a 2-on-1 with Andrei Kostitsyn and beat Koskinen with a low shot at 18:08.
But Grabner tied it 4:08 into the third when he put in a rebound off the end boards for his 10th goal in the last 12 games.
NOTES—The Canadiens recalled White from Hamilton to replace Darche. Alexandre Picard got to play in place of Gill. Gill’s consecutive games streak ended at 109 since Dec. 3, 2009. . . Michael Cammalleri (shoulder) remains out. . . Andrei Kostitsyn played his 300th career game. . . The Isles sat Ty Wishart and Jeremy Colliton. . . Coach Jack Capuano said goalie Al Montoya, acquired this week from Phoenix, may dress for their home game Friday night against Pittsburgh.