VANCOUVER, British Columbia — The Islanders had the lead after two ugly periods, then allowed the tying goal in the final minute of a near-perfect road third period. But on a night when they needed two points any way they could get them, they managed to pull out a huge win.
Andrew Ladd tipped home Calvin de Haan’s cross-ice feed at 1:33 of overtime to give the Islanders a 4-3 win over the Canucks on Thursday night, a crucial victory on a night when the Maple Leafs and Lightning won earlier in the evening to keep the pressure on the Isles in the battle for the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.
“There’s going to be games every night when teams are going to win that are right around us,” said Ladd, who scored his 19th goal and first overtime winner of the season. “We just have to keep winning games. We know what’s ahead of us.”
What’s behind them now is eight games of this epic nine-game epic trip, with a 5-2-1 record heading into St. Louis on Saturday night.
The Islanders were a few ticks away from wrapping this one up in regulation after a very strong third period in which they outshot the Canucks 13-7 and played the simple, straightforward game they most certainly did not play in the opening two periods.
With Ryan Miller pulled for an extra skater in the final minute, Vancouver barely threatened, and Cal Clutterbuck had the puck along the wall and a path to get it out with 30 seconds to go. His backhand flip didn’t get past Troy Stecher, however, and Stecher gave and received a pass, made a nice fake and threaded a shot through a crowd and past Thomas Greiss with 19.3 seconds left to tie the score.
“I’m going to keep putting Clutter out there in the final minute. He knows what he needs to do there,” Doug Weight said. “I think he’s going to need some sticks sent to St. Louis because he broke all the rest he had . . . But we bailed him out. He’s done it for us plenty.”
Greiss had 28 saves through two periods and did his fair share of bailing out his teammates, who may have seemed a bit glassy-eyed in their fourth time zone of this sojourn. But Weight saw something different.
“A little too much swagger,” he said. “In Calgary, I thought we were exhausted with three in four days. Here, I just thought we were overconfident the first two periods — not getting pucks where we needed to, trying to be too fancy. And we still had the lead after two.”
John Tavares scored off a great feed from Josh Bailey at 15:01 for a 1-0 lead after a period and Bailey made a deft defensive play to spring Anthony Beauvillier for a breakaway goal at 9:29 of the second to pull the Islanders even at 2-2 after an atrocious start to the second. Vancouver scored twice in a 1:56 span, the second off a giveaway by Tavares. At that point, the Canucks held a 2-1 lead and 21-4 edge in shots on goal.
In the closing minute of the second period, Bailey swept a pass back to the point and Nick Leddy’s shot was tipped by Brock Nelson off Stecher’s chest and in, giving the Isles an unexpected 3-2 lead after two. It also gave Bailey a three-assist night.
“It’s been a pretty up-and- down trip for us,” Tavares said. “We’re trying to finish strong and sometimes you’ve got to find a way to win games that maybe you don’t deserve.”