Islanders finish the job this time

The SportsXchange

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- The New York Islanders don't want to wait more than half a season again to establish themselves as a gritty third-period team. They might have taken a giant step toward that objective on Thursday night.

John Tavares' goal with 1:07 left in the second period snapped a tie and sent the Islanders to a 3-2 win over the Edmonton Oilers at Nassau Coliseum.

Josh Bailey scored in the first period and Kyle Okposo in the second for the Islanders (3-2-2), who entered the game having lost the last three games (0-1-2) in which they were tied or leading entering the third period.

Such a storyline is a familiar one for the Islanders, who blew a lead in eight of their first 18 losses last season before charging into the playoffs by going 11-2-4 in the final 17 games. Eight of the wins during that stretch came after the Islanders were leading or tied after two periods.

"We went through a lot last year, we overcame a lot last year, and I really do believe that made a big impact on us," Tavares said. "Even those games that didn't go well early -- there's no reason why we can't win these ones now."

In their home opener on Oct. 5, the Islanders blew a 2-0 lead in the third period and fell to Columbus 3-2 in a shootout. The Islanders gave up the tiebreaking goal in the third period of a 3-2 loss to Nashville last Saturday before Buffalo scored the tying goal with 2:01 left in a 4-3 shootout win on Tuesday.

"We obviously have given up some leads, but it doesn't come into our state of mind," Okposo said. "I think that was the expectation going into this year, that we weren't going to have that growing period, and I don't think we have.

"I don't think we've played poorly in the third period -- maybe a couple bad bounces here and there, a couple breakdowns, but those are going to happen throughout the year."

Islanders coach Jack Capuano thought his team played as well in the third period -- when New York outshot Edmonton 15-8 -- as it did Tuesday, when Marcus Folignos goal during a scrum after a faceoff forced overtime.

"I don't use the word protect because we're not trying to protect (a lead)," Capuano said. "We want to play our system, (which) is to play on our toes and continue to play on our toes. There's skilled teams in this league. If they get a goal like (the Sabres) did off a faceoff and we didn't (stop it), then so be it. But to me we played just as good in the third against Buffalo as we played tonight."

As impressed as Capuano was with the Islanders in the third period, he was even more complimentary of their play in the second, when New York killed three penalties in less than nine minutes to preserve a 2-2 tie. Goalie Evgeni Nabokov made 11 of his 27 saves during that span.

"Your goalie's got to be your best player on the penalty kill," Capuano said. "He made some big saves for us. Really, that was the turning point."

Tavares scored the winner less than three minutes later. He was wrapped up along the boards with Boyd Gordon and Justin Schultz but poked the puck to Okposo and broke free of the Oilers' duo. Okposo immediately passed the puck back to Tavares, whose shot slipped under the legs of Anton Belov and past goalie Devan Dubnyk.

Taylor Hall set a team record by scoring twice in an eight-second span late in the first period for the Oilers (1-6-1), who lost their fifth in a row as they tied the 1992-93 team -- which was 1-6-1 in the pre-shootout era -- for the fewest points through eight games in franchise history.

Wayne Gretzky scored twice in nine seconds for Edmonton against St. Louis on Feb. 18, 1981.

"It was a great feeling to get two goals in a row like that, but we took control of the game there and then dropped the reins," Hall said. "When you're up like that, you've got to really shove it down their throats and really make them pay for giving you those chances. And tonight, we let them back in the game."

Dubnyk had 37 saves for the Oilers.

NOTES: The Islanders scratched LW Eric Boulton, D Matt Carkner and C Brock Nelson. The Oilers scratched RW Mike Brown, LW Jesse Joensuu and D Denis Grebeshkov. ... The Islanders have hosted the Oilers seven times since the turn of the century -- as many times as the Islanders hosted the Oilers in the playoffs from 1981 through 1984. ... This season marks the sixth time the Oilers have collected five or fewer points through eight games. They recovered to make the playoffs in 1991-92 when they reached the conference finals and in 1997-98 when they made the conference semifinals. ... The Islanders and Oilers are both expected to move into new homes within the next three seasons. The Islanders are scheduled to move into Barclays Center no later than the start of the 2015-16 season. Construction on a new arena in Edmonton should be completed by 2016-17. Nassau Coliseum and Rexall Place in Edmonton are the second and third oldest arenas in the NHL behind New York City's Madison Square Garden.
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