Anders Lee scored the tiebreaking goal with 2:57 left in the third period Thursday night as the New York Islanders edged the visiting Montreal Canadiens, 2-1, in a game with pivotal Eastern Conference playoff implications at Nassau Coliseum.
Islanders center Mathew Barzal started the game-winning sequence by stealing the puck from Canadiens center Max Domi deep in the New York zone. Barzal and Lee then raced up the ice, and Barzal shuffled the puck long enough to deke Montreal defenseman Jeff Petry into thinking he was going to shoot. Instead, Barzal passed to Lee, who fired a shot beyond the outstretched glove of goalie Carey Price.
Adam Pelech scored in the second period for the Islanders, who won for the fourth time in five games to remain no more than two points behind the first-place Washington Capitals in the Metropolitan Division. The Capitals beat the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday night.
Goalie Thomas Greiss made 33 saves.
Jordie Benn scored in the second period for the Canadiens, who lost for the fourth time in six games and missed a chance to move ahead of the idle Columbus Blue Jackets in the race for the second and final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. The two teams both have 81 points, but Columbus has three more regulation/overtime wins as well as a game in hand.
Price made 36 saves.
After a scoreless first period, the Islanders took the lead following a frenzied sequence in the Canadiens’ zone early in the second. Price deflected a shot by Brock Nelson, and the puck bounced into the crease, where Andrew Ladd took a swing at it but missed. The puck skittered to Pelech, who fired a shot past Price as Nelson and Canadiens defenseman Brett Kulak converged upon Price in front of the goalmouth.
The Canadiens benefited from some chaos in the Islanders’ zone to tie the score in the waning moments of the period.
Benn’s shot from the blue line bounced off Greiss and to Canadiens center Nate Thompson, who backhanded the puck to teammate Paul Byron. The left winger then passed back to Benn, who remained stationed at the blue line. Benn’s second shot sailed past Greiss, who was screened by Islanders defenseman Ryan Pulock and Montreal center Jordan Weal.