VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- In an Islanders season that has defied explanation with all the blown leads, Monday night's win might just be the most "beyond explanation'' of them all.
Trailing by three goals, blanked for 40 minutes and coming off a second period that Kyle Okposo said "looked like we didn't even want to be out there," the Islanders scored a franchise record-tying seven goals in the third -- including three power-play goals in a 2:23 span and six goals in 10:32 -- to earn a 7-4 victory over the Canucks that had everyone, winners and losers, scratching their heads.
"I've never seen anything like that," said Colin McDonald, who raced behind the Canucks' net to grab an unattended puck and fed Matt Martin for a backhander past Eddie Lack that broke a 4-4 tie with 9:56 left. "We had a good talk after the second and it went just how we wanted it to go. I don't think we could have expected it to go like that, really."
After two Canucks power-play goals and a goal by Henrik Sedin that banked off Cal Clutterbuck and behind Evgeni Nabokov, the Islanders were down three goals and basically out.
With the fresh memories of consecutive two-goal leads blown in Edmonton and Calgary on consecutive nights -- not to mention five of six games in which they entered the third period with the lead, only to lose it -- the Islanders seemed to be at the end of their rope on this final game of a four-game swing.
Apparently not. Josh Bailey scored 1:13 into the third, burying a good feed from Matt Donovan on the power play.
A little more than a minute and two poor Canucks decisions later, the Isles were on an extended five-on-three. Okposo fed Ryan Strome to make it 3-2 at 3:14. Calvin de Haan's shot beat Lack through a screen at 3:36, and the score was tied.
Canucks enforcer Tom Sestito then went off for boarding McDonald. Frans Nielsen's rebound goal came a second after the power play expired and gave the Isles a 4-3 lead 6:22 into the third.
In keeping with at least part of the recent narrative, the Isles gave that lead back, as Chris Tanev's shot through a screen beat Nabokov to make it 4-4. But Martin untied it 10 seconds later and Anders Lee added another goal 1:41 after that for a 6-4 lead.
"You could tell the relief in here after the last two games," said Lee, who has five goals in seven games since being called up from Bridgeport. "Even after Bails' goal, we just got pucks on net and made it happen."
Clutterbuck fired one into an empty net with 17.6 seconds left to tie a franchise record set on Dec. 23, 1978, against the Rangers.
Former Rangers coach John Tortorella, now the Canucks' coach, reacted with disbelief. His Vancouver team had appeared ready to close the gap on the eighth playoff spot in the West before melting down.
"This is a kick in the teeth," he said. "It'll take more than the normal coach-speak to get by it."
Notes & quotes: Michael Grabner left the game with an upper-body injury late in the second and did not return . . . This was the Isles' NHL-leading eighth win when trailing after two periods (8-22-2). They have won only nine games (9-6-5) when leading after two. It was their second comeback from three goals down to win this season; they rallied to beat the Wild, 5-4, in St. Paul on Dec. 29.
Sign up for Newsday’s Islanders texts with a 14-day free trial at newsday.com/islestext.