Brian Gionta broke a tie 48 seconds into the final period, P.K. Subban and Brendan Gallagher added insurance goals, and the Northeast Division-leading Canadiens defeated the Islanders 5-2 Thursday night at Nassau Coliseum.
Gionta scored his 10th of the season and seventh in his past 11 games by deflecting a perfect shot/pass from David Desharnais behind Montreal native Kevin Poulin, who was playing in the Islanders net for the first time since Feb. 24.
Subban scored his second of the night and Gallagher added his ninth of the season in a 33-second span midway through the third to put the game away for the Canadiens (20-5-5), who are 14-1-4 in their past 19 games. The lone regulation loss was 6-3 to the Islanders on March 5 in their previous trip to Long Island.
"It's a good feeling to know that when we're in the middle of a game, we're able to come out that strong when we need to," Gallagher said. "It would have been good if we could have done the same thing in the first and second periods, but when the coach puts you on the ice in an important situation in the third, you just want to try and find a way to contribute however you can.
"As a team, we played a great third period," he added. "I think it was an excellent road game for us."
The Islanders have allowed 45 goals in the third period of their 30 games this season, by far the most in the NHL. New York surrendered four goals in the third period of a 5-3 loss to the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday and blew a 3-0 lead in the final period at the Florida Panthers on Saturday before scoring the game-winner in a 4-3 victory. The Islanders have been outscored 10-1 in the third period of their past three games.
New York has led or been tied in the third period in 24 of its 30 games but has lost 11 of those (13-8-3).
"We've got to have that killer instinct and understand that we can't lay off the gas pedal a little bit just because we've got the lead or we're playing well," said center John Tavares, who scored the Islanders' first goal. "The first 40 minutes of the last few games have been pretty good for us. We should be confident. We want to play with the lead. It takes a lot out of you to come back."
Canadiens goalie Carey Price made 25 saves for his first victory in three games against the Islanders this season. Poulin, a rookie who gave starter Evgeni Nabokov the night off before the Pittsburgh Penguins come to Nassau Coliseum on Friday, stopped 24 shots.
"This was a big win for us. We wanted to rebound after that last game. I don't think we played particularity well in those first two periods, but we came out really strong in the third," Price said. "We're really comfortable in tight games when we come out in the third period. We have a group with an incredible will and work ethic that allows us to overcome tough situations."
Lubomir Visnovsky also scored for the Islanders (13-14-3), who fell to 5-10-2 at home, 0-2-0 on their four-game homestand. New York remained in 11th place in the Eastern Conference, three points out of the last Stanley Cup Playoff spot.
Islanders coach Jack Capuano was unhappy with his team's compete level, especially in the third period.
"You have to be able to win in the trenches," he said. "If you don't win those battles, you don't have a chance to win the game.
"Teams that out-will their opponent will win time and time again."
Montreal opened the scoring midway through the first period on the power play. With Mark Streit in the box for cross-checking, Michael Ryder moved to the top of the left circle and snapped a shot that went through a screen by Gionta and past Poulin at 9:36. It was Ryder's ninth of the season.
The Canadiens nearly had another goal just over two minutes later, only to misfire on a 3-on-1 break, and the Islanders took advantage on the return rush. Tavares, whose line had been called out by Capuano after Tuesday's loss to Ottawa, led a 2-on-1 break. Tavares carried down the left side, was allowed to cut in front of the net and beat Price from just outside the crease at 12:06 for his team-high 18th of the season.
New York went on top 6:38 into the second period. After a slick three-way passing play among Tavares and linemates Matt Moulson and Brad Boyes, the puck squirted loose just outside the crease. Visnovsky snuck in from the point and slammed home his third of the season and second in as many games.
That 2-1 lead lasted only until New York's Michael Grabner was called for hooking at 9:26. Montreal controlled the puck for more than a minute before Subban took a pass from Tomas Plekanec and stepped into a straightaway slapper from just inside the blue line that went through the five-hole of Poulin.
"It was a tough game for sure. Especially when it's a 2-2 game like that and you go up early in the third period and then you have 16 minutes to grind away -- it's not easy," said Subban, whose nine goals are tops among NHL defensemen. "We were happy to get the fourth goal, it was big for us and kind of set the tone for the rest of the game, and then we got the fifth one and that was the end of it. I thought we played well, but we definitely have to give our goaltender Pricey credit for shutting the door."
Material from team media was used in this report