MONTREAL – New York Islanders rookie defenceman Thomas Hickey couldn’t have scripted his first NHL goal any better.
The 23-year-old scored at 3:12 of overtime Thursday to complete the Islanders’ 4-3 come-from-behind victory over the Montreal Canadiens.
“Coming in today, this rink with all that history up in the rafters, I got goose bumps right away. It’s a special place to score in overtime, and to get the win here, I couldn’t be happier,” said Hickey, the fourth overall pick in 2007 by the Los Angeles Kings, who was picked up off waivers by the Islanders during training camp.
John Tavares got the decisive play started when, while on the ice, he dished off to a streaking Michael Grabner, who found a pinching and open Hickey to the left of Montreal goaltender Carey Price.
“I don’t know what I was doing that far into the play, to be honest with you,” Hickey said with a chuckle. “Most guys would have shot that. I don’t know how (Grabner) saw me but I just had my stick on the ice and just swiped at it.”
Matt Moulson scored twice and Frans Nielsen added a goal in the third period for Islanders (7-9-1), who picked up just their third win in 10 tries in February. Evgeni Nabokov made 30 saves for the victory.
Price stopped 21 shots in the loss, which snapped Montreal’s five-game winning streak. Max Pacioretty, with two, and Travis Moen had the goals for the Habs (11-4-2).
The Canadiens appeared well on their way to extending their hot run when they jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first period while outshooting the Islanders 14-3.
Moen scored his second of the season just 49 seconds into the game, and Pacioretty doubled the lead with a power-play goal at 11:02 when David Desharnais found the winger at the inner hash marks of the right faceoff circle.
The Islanders cut the lead in half with a power-play goal 34 seconds into the middle period. Moulson deflected a point shot from former Canadiens defenceman Mark Streit for his first of the night.
“We weren’t happy in here and we knew we had to be a lot better. It just seemed that as the game went on we started to play better and started to make more happen,” said Tavares, who finished with a pair of assists.
“It’s really been a struggle for us this year, starting off on the wrong foot. But it’s a good way to battle back and know that we can do that. It’s a big win in a tough environment, and they’ve been playing really well.”
New York’s play with the man advantage, which was tops on the road and fourth overall in the NHL heading into Thursday, has been a strength in the Islanders’ game this season.
“Our power play’s been there all year for us,” coach Jack Capuano said. “The first one was a big one to get us on the board. We then just kept getting pucks to the net and found a way.”
Pacioretty restored Montreal’s two-goal lead with his second goal of the night at 8:30 of the second.
But the Islanders’ power play struck again late in the period when Tavares found Moulson for the winger’s ninth of the season.
“We got completely away from our gameplan,” said Pacioretty, who now has four goals in three games after a 10-game drought to start the season. “They saw an opportunity and they walked all over us. It’s embarrassing to be up like that and get away from our gameplan so much.”
Nielsen evened things up at 9:51 of the third when he took a Josh Bailey pass into the high slot and fired it past Price.
“The first half of the game we were in complete control,” Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said. “We seemed to lose our energy that makes us a tough team to play against. We weren’t able to control our penalty kill and they have one of the best power plays in the league. That’s what got them back into the game—we ran out of gas in the second half.”
NOTES: The Canadiens allowed more than a goal against for the first time since Feb. 12 against Tampa Bay (a 4-3 shootout win). … D Tomas Kaberle and D Yannick Weber were once again healthy scratches for Montreal, while rookie RW Brendan Gallagher missed his third straight game with a concussion. … The Islanders, without injured D Matt Carkner and D Brian Strait, scratched blue-liner Radek Martinek and forwards Eric Boulton and David Ullstrom.