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Jack Capuano's faith in Anders Lee pays off as Islanders win

Islanders center Anders Lee (27) comes away with

Islanders center Anders Lee (27) comes away with the puck out of a scrum along the boards behind the net in the first period. (April 6, 2013) Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

Jack Capuano took a big risk late in Saturday night's crucial game.

Islanders rookie Anders Lee, playing only his second NHL game, had let Lightning defenseman Matt Carle pounce on a rebound and tie the score four minutes into the third period.

There are plenty of coaches who would have glued the rookie to the bench in a tie game with so much at stake. But Capuano sent Lee over the boards again inside of seven minutes along with his regular linemates, Matt Martin and Casey Cizikas. They produced the winner on Martin's screened wrist shot with 6:26 to go in a 4-2 win over Tampa Bay at the sold-out Nassau Coliseum.

"That's the last thing you want to do," Lee said of letting Carle go.

Lee was on the ice for both Lightning goals, as he was on for both Jets goals in his NHL debut Tuesday. "You just work hard, be ready for the next shift and I made a little pass,'' he said. "The boys picked me up tonight."

The boys picked themselves up again as a team, winning for the sixth time in the last eight games to move three games over .500 for the first time this season. The Lightning rallied to tie the score twice and had some more quality chances, but the Islanders (42 points) -- who are tied with the seventh-place Rangers in points but have played one more game -- found a way to take their points and get out.

"It's a combination of the little things. In the last month or so, we've been doing some good things," said Evgeni Nabokov, who made 19 saves and allowed fewer than three goals for the sixth time in his last seven starts. "We have to continue to do that, stay on track. We can't get too ahead of ourselves or get too happy yet."

With nine games to go -- and six of those are against teams below them in the standings -- the Islanders, who lead the Jets by two points and the Devils by three, still have their work cut out for them. But they shook off the two rallies by Tampa Bay Saturday night that negated goals by Michael Grabner in the first and Josh Bailey in the second, along with some frustration over missed calls by the officials that might have thrown them completely off their task earlier this season.

"We're still going to yell at the refs, but we don't let the game slip away like maybe we used to," said Grabner, who filled in on John Tavares' left side with Matt Moulson (flu) out and opened the scoring at 14:45. "We don't get many calls. But the last few games, we've stopped thinking about it and just kept playing."

Capuano also stopped worrying about his newest player, Lee. "I think you have to give him another chance there," he said.

It wasn't anything spectacular that Lee did; he chipped a pass up to Martin in stride, then headed for the bench. Martin used Cizikas' screen perfectly to snap a shot between Ben Bishop's legs for Lee's first NHL assist and a reward for a coach's faith.

"It's great to see those guys come up with a big one when they don't always get the attention," said Tavares, who had an assist on Grabner's goal.

The Islanders didn't sit back and wait for Steven Stamkos, Marty St. Louis and Vinny Lecavalier to make another charge. The home side controlled play during the final six minutes, cementing the win on Andrew MacDonald's 150-foot clearing attempt into an empty net with 14 seconds to go.

"We're finding a way," Capuano said. "We're finding a way to compete, to get two points."

New York Sports