UNIONDALE , N.Y. -- It had been more than six months since the last time the New York Islanders left the ice with two points. The drought finally came to a halt on Wednesday -- despite another third-period meltdown.
After blowing a 3-1 lead late in the third period, Jeff Tambellini, Frans Nielsen and John Tavares all beat Cam Ward in the shootout as the Isles escaped Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum with a 4-3 shootout victory over the Carolina Hurricanes.
It was the Isles' first win since April 4, when they beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-1 at the Coliseum. New York (1-3-3) closed out last season with four consecutive losses during which it was outscored 24-5. The Isles opened this season with six consecutive losses and had gone three game without picking up a point. But Andy Sutton's rare offensive outburst (1 goal, 1 assist), combined with Dwayne Roloson's 35-save effort, helped give the Isles a reason to smile.
"We gave up a couple of gifts again at the end, but we rallied to manage in the shootout," Sutton said. "Maybe we learned a little bit from what happened and fought a little harder. Going forward, we have to stay with more composure when we have that lead. We fought so hard to get it, we've got to fight a little harder to keep it."
After a scoreless OT, Tambellini beat Ward with a forehand to the top corner. Roloson stoppedSergei Samsonov, Nielsen scored on a backhander and Jussi Jokinen scored for the 'Canes, but Tavares ended the game with a slick wrist shot past Ward.
"I was just trying to think back when I was a kid and there's no pressure and just having fun with it," Tavares said of his shootout goal. "Originally I wanted to do what Fransie (Nielsen) did and try to go to my backhand, but he made a good move. I just tried to add a little more of an element and get it to my forehand."
Matt Moulson gave the Islanders a 1-0 lead with his team-leading fifth goal of the season 8:11 into the game. Moulson, who continues to impress on Long Island, parked himself in front of the net and one-timed Sutton's feed off the left boards past Ward.
The Hurricanes tied the game Matt Cullen scored on the power play at 5:34 of the second period. After Isles forward Blake Comeau was called for interference, Cullen skated out of the right corner with the puck and attempted a centering feed, but the puck went off the left skate of Islanders defenseman Jack Hillen and past Roloson. It was Cullen's second goal of the season.
The Isles then got goals from a couple of unlikely sources less than a minute apart midway through the period. Fourth-liner Tim Jackman made it 2-1 at 10:32 when his shot from between the circles deflected off the lower body of 'Canes defenseman Niclas Wallin and trickled past Ward. Sutton then gave New York a two-goal cushion at 11:21 when he redirected Hillen's high shot from the point past Ward for his second goal of the season. The goal was awarded after a brief video review.
"I felt good," said Sutton, who has been plagued by injures since joining the Islanders in 2007. "I've felt better every game so far this year. I missed a lot of times the last two-and-a-half, three seasons. I'm feeling better and better. I think that's the best I've felt so far this season."
Carolina cut the deficit in half when Eric Staal tallied his third goal of the season with 5:59 left in regulation. Ray Whitney, who was playing his 1,000th NHL game, made a nifty pass near the crease out to Staal, who fired a rocket past Roloson to make it 3-2.
Jokinen tied it just 74 seconds later when he took a pass from Joni Pitkanen and threw a floater from the right wing that managed to get past Roloson for his third goal of the season.
"We gave up a couple of gifts again at the end, but we rallied to manage in the shootout. Maybe we learned a little bit from what happened and fought a little harder. Going forward, we have to stay with more composure when we have that lead. We fought so hard to get it, we've got to fight a little harder to keep it." -- Andy Sutton
The comeback was encouraging for Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice, whose team has experienced plenty of trouble scoring goals so far this season.
"That's a good start," Maurice said. "We did it against Pittsburgh (last Wednesday) at 2-0, we came back and tied the game and lost in a shootout, and we did it again here tonight. The difference was I thought we had a lot more opportunities at the start. It's starting to look like the game we want to play."
The natural reaction from the Islanders' bench would have been, "Here we go again." But coach Scott Gordon found things to be the complete opposite.
"We've had a couple of games like that already, but in saying that, the bench was pretty lively," Gordon said. "I didn't find it to be one of those things where we were hanging our heads. It's more about, 'Let's go and get this.'"
Tavares, the No. 1 pick in the Entry Draft last June, left the ice a winner for the fist time in his NHL career.
"Everyone was chipping in tonight in big ways," said Tavares, who survived a thunderous hit from Andrew Alberts in the third period. "It's nice to get it. It's well overdue."
The Islanders, who travel to Montreal on Thursday, couldn't agree more.
"Eventually, it's going to turn for us," Gordon said. "If this is the start of it, then so be it."
-- Brian Compton, NHL.com