Aggressive Islanders dominate third period to beat Oilers
Two nights earlier against a struggling team, the Islanders could not hold a late one-goal lead.
They decided to give the same scenario another go Thursday night and put the correct finishing touches on this one.
With a strong, aggressive third period, the Islanders succeeded this time around, earning a 3-2 win over the Oilers.
The Isles again hit the 40-shot mark, helped by a 15-8 shot edge in the third period while holding the one-goal lead.
"We obviously talked about it the last couple days and we stayed aggressive in the third," said John Tavares, whose wrist shot off the crossbar and in with 1:07 left in the second period proved to be the winning goal. "It was good to see us come up with a pretty complete game."
They thought they had one of those on Tuesday, only to give up the tying goal to the then-winless Sabres with 2:01 to play before losing in a shootout.
The one-win Oilers were at the Coliseum Thursday night and, after some ebb and flow, Tavares' goal gave the Isles the same 3-2 lead they had Tuesday night heading into the third.
The Islanders had killed off three consecutive Oilers power plays in a 6:48 span of the second to help turn the tide. That surge threatened to go back the other way after the Isles failed on two early power plays in the third, but instead, they kept coming.
"We don't use the word protect," coach Jack Capuano said. "We're not trying to protect a lead with the way we want to play."
Tavares, Kyle Okposo and Josh Bailey produced the goals, but perhaps the biggest production came from battlers such as Casey Cizikas, who played nearly 16 minutes and was on for every big faceoff down the stretch, winning 8 of 14.
Evgeni Nabokov made 27 saves and had only one hairy moment in the third, when long-ago former Islander Ryan Smyth's wraparound try rolled through the crease and out the other side with just over four minutes to go.
Other than the wave of minors in the second, the Islanders let up only in an eight-second span late in the first. Taylor Hall got into the Oilers' record books by scoring twice in that span -- ejecting a guy named Gretzky for fastest two goals by an Oiler -- and the 1-0 lead Bailey's goal had produced quickly evaporated.
But Okposo, off some tic-tac-toe passing from Matt Moulson and Tavares, tied it on the power play early in the second.
"We had another little meltdown there in the first," Tavares said, "but we stuck with it and got some momentum back after we killed the penalties."
If early returns are any indication, the Islanders will be in loads of one-goal games this season. Six of their first seven have been tied or within a goal in the third period, including a pair of blown leads on home ice that ended in shootout losses.
Most of the Islanders asked after last night's win were happy to get right back into a tight contest so soon after Tuesday's missed opportunity.
"We all know we're capable of winning these games, of holding leads late," Andrew MacDonald said. "We wanted another crack at it so we could show, hey, we can play confidently with the lead and we can close these games out."