Goals from unexpected places lift Isles in OT
KANATA, Ont. -- The Islanders' search for scoring from players other than John Tavares and his linemates went far off the beaten path in overtime Friday night.
Somehow, it worked. Mark Eaton, the light-scoring defenseman playing his 600th NHL game, scored his first goal in more than two years to secure a 2-1 overtime win over the Senators and give the Isles a very crucial bonus point in their quest for a playoff spot.
The Islanders (21-22-7) are tied for 11th in the East, nine points out of eighth with a game in hand. They are a game under .500 for the first time since they were 4-5-2 on Nov. 5.
"You can't rely on just the big guys every time out," said Eaton, who jumped up in the rush, took a neat pass from Milan Jurcina, spun around and swept a backhand past Craig Anderson from a sharp angle for his first goal since Nov. 28, 2009, and only his 24th career goal. "You need to be able to win when those guys are held off the scoreboard."
Tavares nearly won it on the first shift of OT, with his try off a rebound hitting the post. Otherwise, the Senators put the clamps on him, Matt Moulson and Kyle Okposo, collapsing two or three guys on Tavares every time he got the puck.
"It was one of the tightest [checking] games we had all year," said goalie Evgeni Nabokov, who made 23 saves on a night when his teammates blocked 27 shots and prevented all but a very few good chances for Ottawa. "That's how the games are going to be from now on -- tight, physical, a lot of character involved."
The Isles showed some, especially after Zack Smith's shorthanded goal with 12.6 seconds left in the second. Smith's shot changed directions off the stick of Mark Streit and handcuffed Nabokov, going off his glove and into the net.
But the Isles kept their structure in the third despite the deficit. P.A. Parenteau, who made the rush to set up Eaton's winner and leads the Islanders with 36 assists, made a terrifically patient play early in the third, crossing the Senators' line and drawing both defenders to him before feeding Matt Martin flying in on the open wing. Martin's wrist shot tied it at 5:27. "I think Ottawa thought we were all going for a change," Martin said. "P.A. made a great move there."
The rest of the third was a battle of clogged shooting lanes and neutral-zone closeouts.
The Islanders must be loath to get into three-point games with teams ahead of them in the standings, but when they rally as they did Friday night, the extra point is huge. Especially with Tavares as silent as he'd been in weeks.
"We did a lot of good things, even though we're not scoring that many goals," coach Jack Capuano said. "These are the kinds of games we have to win."
Notes & quotes: F Brian Rolston and D Dylan Reese were healthy scratches . . . Former Islander Zenon Konopka played his first game against his former team, with whom he wanted to re-sign last offseason. "I guess I assumed some things I shouldn't have," he said. "But when you put your blood and tears into a team, you get accustomed to being a part of that team, that community. I was frustrated at the time, but things have worked out."