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Islanders 2, Canadiens 1: Lee’s late winner banks two more points

Mathew Barzal set the captain up beautifully, while Thomas Greiss was almost perfect.

Montreal Canadiens v New York Islanders
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The New York Islanders played an outstanding game for most of a rather crucial contest, playoff-wise, but the Montreal Canadiens winningest goalie in franchise history nearly undid the effort.

Instead of a frustrating ending, however, the Isles broke through late on a goal by their captain set up by their number-one center. The resulting 2-1 win at Nassau Coliseum strengthened their playoff position considerably. With the Canadiens being the first team outside the wild card slot, the win to keep them eight points behind the Isles was huge.

[Game Sum | Event Sum | Natural Stat Trick | HockeyViz]

First Period: Price is right

The Islanders came out on top of their game, with only Carey Price keeping them from getting something to show for it. Wave after wave, shift after shift in the opening six minutes they maintained pressure in the Canadiens zone. Anders Lee led with five shots on goal, at least three which required good saves from Price.

Their momentum stalled a bit at 8:23 when Scott Mayfield was whistled for a penalty — a fair one but ironic given that the referees seemed intent to go back to “let them play” mode. Max Domi was allowed to punch Mathew Barzal in the head and crosscheck him, and Jesperi Kotkaniemi allowed to water ski on Barzal the length of the ice.

The Canadiens generated a couple of shots on that power play, and the Islanders had a couple of their own toward the end of a power play that began at the mid-way point. That all slowed the Isles’ initial flow for a bit and allowed the Canadiens to exert pressure for a couple of shifts before the end of the period, which was scoreless.

Second Period: We have goals

The Islanders opened the second period the same way they began the game: with impressive sustained pressure. Good work by the Brock Nelson - Anthony Beauvillier - Andrew Ladd line, plus some help from the defense to keep it in (something they did all night) led to finally getting one past Price.

Adam Pelech did the deed, slipping down into the slot to pick up a loose rebound after Nelson had made a good move in the corner to get an open shot at Price.

That goal came just 1:20 into the period. The Islanders came close to building on their lead on a power play five minutes later — this time, cross-checking Barzal up high was deemed a foul — but Price held the door shut.

Still, the Islanders had some good work throughout the period, enough to make you think, “They’re gonna get another one here...or their failure to do so is going to haunt them.”

Consider it the latter.

The Canadiens had their share of chances, and Thomas Greiss was tested, but the Isles had the better of play as time wound down in the second. Thus, when Jordie Benn had two consecutive shots from the point, the Canadiens tied it with just 1:50 left.

Greiss stopped the first shot, but the Canadiens controlled the rebound and re-fed Benn, whose shot went through three or four bodies to beat Greiss and tie it at 1-1.

Third Period: Well that was timely

After a good stretch in the Canadiens zone, the Isles gave the visitors a good early opportunity to take the lead when Andrew Ladd dove for the puck along the boards and took out Phillip Danault’s feet.

Greiss was huge on the ensuing power play, particularly on a double stop on Kotkaniemi:

That penalty killed, the Islanders kept up the pressure, with the fourth line routinely making noise and the Barzal line with Anders Lee and Jordan Eberle having one lengthy shift working inside the Canadiens zone. Time was winding past the 15-minute mark and you figured we were headed for another extra time coin flip.

Then it happened.

Barzal’s intelligent backcheck and Leo Komarov’s disruption forced a miscommunication among two Canadiens forwards in the Isles zone, and Barzal won a battle with a desperately hooking Domi — remember him trying to send a message to Barzal in the opening period? — that saw Domi fall flat to the ice while Barzal took off on the rush.

Because he’s Mat Barzal, he had to slow down considerably to allow his one-on-one against Jeff Petry to develop into a proper two-on-one. Barzal handled it masterfully, turning Petry this way and that and keeping Price honest before slipping a pass through the Canadien defenseman’s legs right to the stick blade of Anders Lee, who made no mistake putting it past a stretching Price with 2:57 to go.

The 2-1 lead held, in part from the Islanders forechecking so well that the Canadiens couldn’t get Price pulled for a sixth attacker until there were 60 seconds to go.

Tao of Trotz

Barry Trotz liked their poise, no panic, liked the mood of the team, loved how they played smart in the third, “waited for our chance, then buried it.”

On Barzal: “He made a great defensive play first. He read what was happening and knew there was gonna be something backdoor, held his ice, and [off he went].”

On Pelech, loved his game: “He’s a lot different player than he was at the beginning of the year. ... Hitting that next level.”

Up Next

So the Islanders keep pace with the Capitals for first again, two points behind but with a game in hand.

Saturday afternoon the Islanders are in Detroit to face the stuggling Red Wings. Trap game, potentially, but they should get the two points.