VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Thomas Hickey was the Islander who scored the game-winner, a knuckler of a slap shot that skipped off the ice and past Canucks goaltender Jacob Markstrom with 7:05 to go.
It was a lucky goal, fittingly, to cap a lucky 3-2 win for the Islanders, who had two earlier goals go in off Vancouver defensemen and needed every last one of Thomas Greiss’ 31 saves to hold off the Canucks for an important win on a night the Isles played poorly for the most part.
“To a man, we know that’s not going to win many games, playing that way,” said Hickey, who also had an assist on Anders Lee’s second-period goal. “Not really a good night for us.”
Greiss came up big after allowing Daniel Sedin’s goal from below the goal line at 10:52 of the third that tied it at 2. After not playing since Feb. 18, Greiss was sharp and needed to be as the Canucks crashed the net hard and dug around for pucks.
He pounced on one after a save with 3.8 seconds to go, preserving the victory that moved the Isles three points ahead of the Penguins for third in the Metro Division.
“He just battled, that’s what I saw from him,” Jack Capuano said of Greiss, who won for the 17th time in his 25 starts. “He’s out at the top of the crease, fighting for space. He gave us a chance.”
Travis Hamonic’s shot that deflected off Dan Hamhuis’ stick and past Markstrom at 4:20 of the first got the Isles off on the right foot, but that was their only shot of the opening period until the final minute. The two-shot period, plus a power-play goal allowed to Linden Vey at 10:42, made for one of the uglier opening 20 minutes in a while.
“That’s a pretty fair assessment,” Hamonic said. And that was after similarly ugly first periods in Calgary and Edmonton the previous two games.
The Islanders showed some life in the second, though mostly with their fists. After Calvin de Haan took a shoulder to the jaw from Emerson Etem, Hamonic challenged Etem to a fight to try and spark the team.
Less than four minutes later, Derek Dorsett wanted a piece of Brock Nelson after the Isles forward took some liberties with Daniel Sedin. Matt Martin stepped in and fought Dorsett.
Lee restored the Isles lead at 14:29 of the second, though it didn’t count until after a television timeout and an NHL Situation Room review. Lee tipped Hickey’s shot, Markstrom stopped it but the rebound banked off Ben Hutton’s skate and back toward the goal line, where Markstrom put his glove over it.
Replay showed the puck was well over the goal line when Markstrom grabbed it.
“Yeah, it was pretty much a night when all the goals were garbage,” Lee said.
The Isles didn’t get to 10 shots on net until the final horn of the second, though they finally turned up their offensive-zone play in the third, even before Daniel Sedin tied it. The final four minutes were survival mode, however, and the win moved the Islanders to 4-1-0 on the current seven-game road trip, though the last two of those wins were better not to be seen again.
“Everyone else is winning, so you have to take the points any way you can,” Hamonic said. “You’d probably like to get them in a better manner, but what can you do?”
Notes & quotes: De Haan returned after missing the last five games with a lower-body injury. Ryan Pulock, who made his NHL debut on Sunday, stayed in the lineup, with Brian Strait and Marek Zidlicky sitting out. Rosters expand after the trade deadline, so the Isles were fine carrying 25 players. Shane Prince, acquired from the Senators on Monday, started last night’s game on a line with John Tavares and Ryan Strome, though the ugly first period changed all that. Prince didn’t have a shot on goal in 13:07 of ice time.