A decisive and commanding win it was not--and the Islanders admittedly white-knuckled a grip on their lead for much of the way--but a win, nonetheless.
Sparked by a three-goal first period, the Islanders topped the Ducks 3-2 in front of a season's-low 7,659 in attendance at Nassau Coliseum last night, their 2nd victory over the past 22 games.
“It’s a huge relief,” defenseman Andrew MacDonald said. “It’s been a rough go lately. If you ask anyone, no one is thrilled with the way we played, but the most important thing is we got the two points."
The Islanders returned defenseman Milan Jurcina and Radek Martinek to their depleted blue line, but MacDonald was the irrefutable star of the game. Finishing with five takeaways, eight block shots and a team-leading 25:53 of ice time, MacDonald was awarded the team's makeshift MVP trophy--an Islanders-emblazoned hard hat--for his superior effort.
"A-Mac was unbelievable tonight," said his defensive partner Travis Hamonic, who delivered another fine performance as well.
“I felt good,” said MacDonald, who returned from a broken right hand December 2. “I had good legs, was reading the play well, so its nice to be back in full form.”
Beginning with P.A. Parenteau's power-play marker, the Islanders built a comfortable edge in the first period.
John Tavares laced a beautiful pass behind-the-net and through-the-crease to connect with Parenteau, who beat Ducks backup goaltender Curtis McElhinney at 15:06.
The Islanders added two more within the next 1:39 on Blake Comeau's goal from the slot at 15:34 and Matt Moulson's backhander at 16:45.
Parenteau made a nice play with the stick to poke the puck away from Saku Koivu right to Moulson for his team-leading 11th goal of the season.
“You can say whatever you want, but it’s a whole different game when you can get the lead,” said DiPietro, who turned away 30 shots.
"It's nice not to have to play catch-up," Hamonic said.
After recording his first career shutout against the Islanders last month, McElhinney could not replicate that success last night. He was given the hook after Moulson’s goal and replaced by starter Jonas Hiller.
A cushy, three-goal lead seemed to sedate the Islanders in the second, when they surrendered a power-play goal to Ducks Winger Joffrey Lopul at 10:35.
With his back to the net, former Islander Jason Blake then whittled the Islanders’ lead to one goal as he spun and shoved the puck to the net 1:30 into the third period.
Late in the third, Ducks center Brandon McMillan put the Islanders in the driver’s seat later , however, taking an interference penalty with 3:14 to play after brushing Rick DiPietro’s stick aside at the blue line.
The Islanders held on for their first win since a 2-0 shutout over the Devils at home on November 26.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling to win hockey games,” Hamonic said. “I think that was a gutsy effort by the guys and it’s games like that that we’re going to learn from,”