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After rough start, Kevin Poulin comes up big for Isles

Islanders goalie Kevin Poulin stops a goal in

Islanders goalie Kevin Poulin stops a goal in the third period against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden. (Jan. 21, 2014) Credit: Craig Ruttle

Kevin Poulin disputed the notion that he didn't get a chance to settle into Tuesday night's game at Madison Square Garden, what with Rick Nash scoring on two of the Rangers' first six shots in the opening 11:07.

"I think I was pretty settled in, you just can't give Rick Nash those kinds of opportunities," Poulin said after he recorded 30 saves in the 5-3 Islanders win. "But I was settled in."

Poulin feeling settled started to show in the final two periods, when he shut the door and allowed the Islanders to rally back from two goals down for a second consecutive day.

On Monday, Anders Nilsson allowed a couple of shaky goals to the Flyers in the second period, but his teammates tilted the ice in the third to pull back from 3-1 down and win in a shootout.

Tuesday night, Poulin did plenty of the work to give the Islanders a chance. He flew across to stop Nash's hat trick try with his left pad in the closing minutes of the second, then flashed his glove to rob Ryan McDonagh in the opening minute of the third, both saves coming in a 3-3 game.

During a frantic 90-second stretch in the final two minutes, Poulin got help from his mates. The fourth line of Matt Martin, Casey Cizikas and Colin McDonald not only produced two goals -- Martin and McDonald both scored off feeds from John Tavares, who was on late after his linemates had gone off -- but they threw themselves around the defensive zone with six Rangers skaters on to protect a 4-3 lead.

"You said it was 90 seconds, but it felt like about five minutes," McDonald said. "You're panicking out there, but trying not to. There's no formula or system, you're just trying to sacrifice and keep the puck away from the net."

Poulin got a rare day off on Monday, having started all six games on the just-ended road trip after Evgeni Nabokov (quad) went out with an injury on Jan. 6. The 23-year-old goaltender had a couple of stellar performances, allowing only one goal in both Denver and Tampa, and overall looked nothing like the young player who, along with most of the other Islanders, couldn't do much of anything during the 0-8-2 slide that sent the Isles to the bottom of the Metro Division.

Even with Tuesday night's win, the Islanders' 10th in their last 13 games (and Poulin's seventh in his last nine starts), the Isles still sit last in the Metro, five points out of the last playoff spot and still eight points back of the second-place Rangers. All but the Rangers have multiple games in hand on the Islanders.

But, as happened in their last visit to the Garden on Dec. 20, the Islanders rallied for two big points. That is all they can do now, backed by good goaltending and unusual contributors. Sure, Thomas Vanek scored the winner, and Tavares had three assists. But the fourth-line pluggers and the unsung goaltender allowed this comeback to happen.

"He played great," Jack Capuano said of Poulin. "He made big saves, I was impressed with his rebound control. He was real good tonight."

New York Sports