UNIONDALE, N.Y. – John Tortorella was pleased his Vancouver Canucks left Long Island with two points he felt they should’ve had two days earlier in Columbus.
How they got these is another story.
“I thought it was an absolute mess, right on through,” the blustery coach said after the Canucks rallied for a 5-4 overtime victory against the New York Islanders on Tuesday night.
“It seems like every time we come into this building … it turns into a cluster.”
The Canucks erased a 2-0 deficit in the first period, a 3-2 hole in the second, and overcame a tying goal by the Islanders’ Frans Nielsen with 1:12 left in regulation.
Vancouver improved to 3-1-1 on its seven-game trip that has two stops remaining. This win took a little bit of the sting off a 3-1 loss at Columbus on Sunday.
“I give them credit,” Tortorella said. “It was ugly. We made a ton of mistakes, they made a ton of mistakes, but we found a way to win. That’s what I was so disappointed in Columbus about. It was a game that good teams win. We didn’t.
“Tonight is another type of game where I think if you’re going to get there in the end, you have to win.”
Brad Richardson provided the deciding goal, banking the puck in off Islanders goalie Evgeni Nabokov 2:16 into overtime with Vancouver’s 33rd shot.
The Islanders salvaged a point at the end of their 1-1-2 homestand when with Nabokov pulled, Nielsen fired the rebound of MacDonald’s shot into the open left side, past the outstretched glove of Roberto Luongo to tie it at 4.
“We found a way in the third period,” Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. “We need some guys to play better. We need some guys to engage more if they want the ice time they want. That will be addressed.”
Chris Higgins had given the Canucks their first lead—4-3—with 17.2 seconds left in the second. He scored off a feed from defenceman Kevin Bieksa, who took the puck away from Brock Nelson in the New York zone.
“It wasn’t the prettiest one but we’ll take it,” said Higgins, a Long Island native with dozens of friends and family in attendance. “It was a bad game to watch but you have to grind out some ugly ones.”
Ryan Kesler scored his fourth of the season to get Vancouver on the board, and Daniel Sedin tied it 2-2 with his second 4:12 later.
Vancouver will play on back-to-back days at New Jersey and St. Louis to finish this long trip.
“As you go further and further, you wear down a bit. It’s natural,” Tortorella said. “It’s a situation that teams have to fight through.”
New York grabbed the lead just 2:26 in on Nelson’s first NHL goal and went ahead 2-0 just 2:15 after that on the first of Matt Moulson’s two power-play goals. Islanders captain John Tavares earned an assist to stretch his point streak to eight games, but New York finished its homestand 1-1-2.
Vancouver started its comeback 16 seconds later, taking advantage of a shaky Nabokov, who made 28 saves.
Moulson put New York back in front 4:48 into the second, but Henrik Sedin answered that one at 12:39.
The Islanders looked ready to run the road-weary Canucks out of the Nassau Coliseum in Vancouver’s first visit since a shootout win on Jan. 11, 2011.
Cal Clutterbuck sent the puck behind the net from right-wing wall to Peter Regin, who carried it out by the left post and tried a jam shot. Nelson came to the right post and knocked in the rebound.
New York struck again on its first power play after Higgins slashed Nielsen.
Tavares sent a pass down to Nielsen near the left post, and he moved the puck across the crease to Moulson, who was first denied by Luongo but then knocked in the rebound.
Islanders fans were still celebrating that one when Kesler cut the Canucks’ hole in half. Defenceman Dan Hamhuis fired a long shot from inside the Islanders zone that Nabokov blocked with his chest but couldn’t control. The puck bounced into the slot, and Kesler beat New York defenceman Andrew MacDonald to it and knocked it past Nabokov.
Nabokov wasn’t any sharper a few minutes later when Jannik Hansen sent a pass from the right circle to Daniel Sedin in the left circle for a drive that sailed past the Islanders goalie to make it 2-2.
The 38-year-old goalie has played in all but one of New York’s nine games, but could soon lose playing time to backup Kevin Poulin.
“I’m not going to discuss the goaltending,” Capuano said. “Poulin is going to get his chance shortly. If he plays well, he’s going to play more.”
Luongo, the No. 4 pick in the 1997 NHL draft by the Islanders, found his game and made a pair of stellar saves to deny Moulson and Thomas Hickey to keep it tied before the intermission.
Only Moulson had the touch to beat him again. Moulson let go a wrist shot from the right circle that found its way over Luongo’s glove and into the top right corner of the net.
NOTES: Luongo improved to 8-10-3 against the Islanders in 24 games, the same number he played for them in his one season before being traded to Florida. … Nelson was in the lineup for speedy RW Michael Grabner, who served the first game of a two-game suspension for hitting Carolina forward Nathan Gerbe in the head on Saturday. … Canucks LW David Booth was a healthy scratch.