The Islanders needed two points any way they could get them.

Thursday night was about as ugly a way to get them, but there they were, celebrating a 4-3 win over the Canadiens that was the Isles' second win in 12 games and very much needed for their fragile confidence.

Rick DiPietro entered in relief of Evgeni Nabokov just 7:55 in after Nabokov left with a groin injury, which seems to be fairly serious.

DiPietro and the Isles got out to a 3-0 lead on the tired-looking Canadiens, but nearly blew it in the final seconds, with DiPietro and then Frans Nielsen stopping shots in the final minute to preserve the win.

"I don't care how we got it," Nielsen said. "The big thing is, we got it. We battled hard and it wasn't pretty at the end, but we got a win. That's all that matters now."

The Islanders carried a 4-2 lead into the third and carried the play for the first 10 minutes, but turnovers led to two penalties and Brian Gionta converted the second of those power plays to make it 4-3 with 4:18 left. Montreal continued to attack, but DiPietro (24 saves) came up strong and his teammates threw themselves in front of shots when they had trouble clearing the zone.

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"It's desperation and determination. That's what we need from every guy," Jack Capuano said.

Much like their game a week earlier in Colorado, the Islanders jumped on a sluggish opponent and built up a lead in the second. After a scoreless first in which both teams hit posts and / or crossbars twice, P.A. Parenteau got a gift from Canadiens goaltender Peter Budaj, who misplayed a puck behind the net right out front to Parenteau, who flipped home a backhand just 41 seconds into the period.

Jay Pandolfo then converted a pretty give-and-go from Josh Bailey at 3:01 on a solid counterattack by the Isles' fourth line for Pandolfo's first goal and point of the season. At 9:08, Mark Streit followed his own pass and tapped a loose puck behind Budaj.

"We used the whole offensive zone tonight, and I thought that allowed us some more time and space," said John Tavares, who was a beast in his 18:58 of ice time.

But the fragility showed when Mike Mottau's outlet pass went right to Lars Eller, who fed Max Pacioretty for a one-timer past DiPietro at 14:52 of the second. The Canadiens seized control, and Erik Cole outmuscled Mottau for a rebound at 17:38 to cut their deficit to 3-2 and the Isles' confidence seemed shaken again.

But DiPietro made a terrific outlet pass past two Canadiens to start an odd-man rush, and Matt Moulson's wrist shot beat Budaj through a screen just 37 seconds after Cole's goal, letting the Islanders breathe again.

"That's a huge bounce-back goal," Bailey said. "It took the heat off a little bit."

That's what the win did for the Isles, who are still seven points behind the top eight in the East but headed in the right direction, back toward the pack.

"Now's the time to play with some urgency," DiPietro said. "It's the middle of November now. There's no more excuses around here."