BOSTON - The Islanders went from first-half duds to playoff team a season ago by winning games in any fashion they could. They seemed to confound opponents at times, scoring timely goals and winning the tough games they hadn't won for years.
That any-which-way-you-can mentality had been missing the first 39 games of this ugly season. But for the second straight game, the Isles left a difficult opponent wondering, "How did those guys beat us?"
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Two nights after rallying from 3-0 down to defeat the Wild, the Islanders again came off the mat to beat the Atlantic Division-leading Bruins, turning a 3-1 deficit into a 5-3 win on four power-play goals and an ability to shrug off a missed goal in the first period.
"Of course we want to play the right way for 60 minutes," said Frans Nielsen, who had two of the four power-play goals. "But at this point, where we are in the standings, I don't care how we win. We just have to win. And we did that again tonight."
John Tavares also had two goals, both in the third period to snap a 3-3 tie, part of a four-point night for the captain. Evgeni Nabokov made 35 saves, 14 in the third, to preserve the win, the Islanders' fourth straight on the road and just the second two-game win streak of the season.
"We didn't have a great start again," Tavares said, "but we stuck with it. We just turned the page and got the power play going."
There were a few fortunate bounces to go with the one that the on-ice officials missed in the first. On the Isles' first power play of the game and trailing 1-0, Cal Clutterbuck slid a shot under Tuukka Rask during a scramble that clearly crossed the goal line before David Krejci swept it out. Neither referee saw the puck go in and the replay officials in Toronto determined that, though the puck went in, one referee had intended to blow his whistle, negating the goal.
"The coaches came in after the first and told us," Tavares said. "They wanted to get us going and said the refs missed one and we needed to go out and earn it, score one more."
Nielsen tied the game at 5:56 of the second, a one-timer off Tavares' feed after Kyle Okposo made a neat play to keep the puck in the Bruins zone. Nielsen's second was even bigger, after the Bruins scored twice in 25 seconds to go up 3-1.
Nielsen poked in a feed from Thomas Vanek to cut the deficit to 3-2 with 3:30 left in the second, in the midst of a parade of Bruins to the penalty box. The Isles had another power play right after the goal that went wanting, but Rask sent a puck over the glass with 40.2 seconds left to give the Isles another crack.
Okposo threw a puck from the corner in front and it went off Brad Marchand's skate and in with 2.6 seconds to go, tying the game heading to the third.
Tavares untied it just 32 seconds in with another good bounce as his toss from below the goal line banked off Rask and floated in.
"We found a way regardless," Nabokov said. "Sometimes, you just have to find a way."
The Islanders hit the halfway mark still in last in the Metropolitan Division, with just 33 points in 41 games. With a ton of ground to make up, style points are long out the window.
"We have to get ourselves back in the race somehow," Nielsen said. "We haven't been our best the last two games, but we got the two points each time."