Jaroslav Halak made a triumphant return to the Islanders lineup.
Halak parachuted into one of the Islanders' biggest games of the season and turned in a gem, making 37 saves in a 4-3 shootout win over the Pittsburgh Penguins - his first NHL action since Dec. 29.
With the win, the Islanders (82 points) moved into a tie with the Boston Bruins for the second wild card, setting up a huge game with the Bruins on Saturday at Barclays Center.
"Anytime to win a game, it's always great, but it's more special right now after being called up and playing my first game at a late stage of the season," Halak said. "I'm happy I'm back and I'm just going to try to help the guys win games."
Video: NYI@PIT: Halak stops Bonino's SO attempt with blocker
Halak made 31 saves through three periods, but really shined in overtime. He made six stops in OT to get the Isles to the shootout and stopped two of three in the bonus round, denying Phil Kessel and Nick Bonino.
Anthony Beauvillier and John Tavares both scored in the shootout and while Tavares got credit for the game-decider, Halak made a case for that title in net.
Video: NYI@PIT: Tavares buries winner past Fleury in SO
"Jaro's attitude since everything went down has been amazing," Interim Coach Doug Weight said. "He was a true professional, he deserved to be back here and he did a great job tonight battling for us and it was a big character win for him. I'm proud of him."
It was a huge win for the team overall, as the Islanders kept control of their own playoff destiny and beat a playoff-bound team for the second straight game in a gruesome part of their schedule. The Islanders are tied with the Bruins in points, but hold the games played tiebreaker, so will wake up Saturday in the second wild card. With nine games to go, it's a far cry from where the Islanders were at a little over two months ago.
Video: NYI@PIT: Beauvillier dangles, goes top shelf in SO
"It just shows the character of this team, the scratch and claw mentality," Casey Cizikas, who netted a goal Friday, said. "The season isn't done yet, we have a lot of work to do, I think we feel good in here where our game is at."
The Islanders faced some adversity in Friday night's game as well. Brock Nelson thought he opened the scoring with 1.7 seconds to play in the first, tapping in a cross-ice feed from Jason Chimera, but the Penguins challenged and overturned the goal on goalie interference.
Video: NYI@PIT: Nelson beats Fleury with wrister from circle
The Penguins poured a little salt in the wound when Cameron Gaunce scored 1:54 into the second period, but the Islanders shook it off by scoring the next two goals. Nelson tied the score just under three minutes later, taking a drop-pass from Josh Ho-Sang before wiring a wrist shot past Fleury and Anders Lee beat the Pens goalie with a similar shot at 9:18.
Pittsburgh challenged the Lee goal as well, hoping for an offside call, but the Isles forward put his skate down and tagged up just in time.
Video: NYI@PIT: Lee roofs wrister from the slot past Fleury
Sidney Crosby turned Ruhwedel's blocked shot into the tying goal at 13:41, but the Islanders took the lead in the dying seconds of the middle frame. Tavares worked the puck from Ruhwedel, made a series of quick stickhandles and fed Cizikas for a tap-in with 4.5 seconds to play in the period.
Pittsburgh fought back again to tie it, as Matt Cullen made it 3-3 with 6:10 to play in the third, but the Isles held on and prevailed in the shootout.
Video: NYI@PIT: Cizikas tucks home a nice dish from Tavares
KULEMIN LEAVES GAME:
Nikolay Kulemin left the game in the second period and did not return.
The Islanders and Bruins battle for the second wild card on Saturday night at Barclays Center.
"The games are all big now, but when you play a team that's part of the group that's battling for positioning, they are amplified a little bit more," Tavares said. "But for us, we have to feed off our home crowd and it'll be fun."
Puck drop is at 7 p.m.