Brock Nelson scored the OT winner at 1:04 of the extra frame on Sunday night, as the New York Islanders grinded out a 3-2 win over the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center.
Nelson (1G, 1A) buried a feed from Mathew Barzal (2A) as the Isles (91 points) vaulted into a tie with the Washington Capitals (91 points) for first-place in the Metropolitan Division. March 17 marked the latest in a season the Isles have been first in their division since 1988.
"An opportunity to get back into first place, we knew today's game was important," Nelson said. "We found a way. Timely goals. Timely kills. Timely saves. A good mix."
Video: NYI@MIN: Nelson buries Barzal's feed in overtime
ISLES GRIND OUT DEFENSIVE WIN:
After outshooting Detroit 42-22 on Saturday and losing 2-1, Sunday's game was the polar opposite for the Isles.
They were outshot 34-20, out-attempted 69-34, took six penalties and spent a healthy amount of time in the defensive zone. The result - a win.
"Today was a good character test," Head Coach Barry Trotz said. "We weren't getting the calls that we wanted, we were getting outplayed in some areas, but we hung in there and at the end of the day, we had some backbone in the third. Obviously in three-on-three we were able to get the game."
The Islanders played a hard, defensive game on Sunday, blocking 22 shots in the win, including four apiece for Scott Mayfield, Ryan Pulock and Thomas Hickey. Five penalties in the first 30 minutes of the game meant a lot of time for a Casey Cizikas-less penalty kill, which killed four straight, as well as less ice time and flow for Barzal, Anders Lee and the Isles top-six.
While the PK had a strong start, the dam eventually broke as both of Minnesota's goals - Zach Parise's 1-1 tally in the second and Jared Sprugeon's 2-2 tying goal in the third - came on the power play.
Trotz was happy with his group's commitment during Sunday's game, but less so with a second period that saw the Isles get outshot 16-3.
"They've got some big boys and they like to play that low cycle game. I thought our D did a great job of battling tonight," Barzal said. "Some nights you just have to play a little more defense, you just have to bury your chances."
For the first time in 12 games, the Islanders scored a power-play goal.
The Islanders had gone 0-for-25 with the man advantage before Anders Lee deflected a Devon Toews shot at 16:12 of the second period. Lee's goal, his team-leading 27th of the season, alleviated the pressure on the Isles' snakebit power play.
"Obviously it's been a bit of a dry spell, so the main focus today was just trying to attack, keep it simple and get pucks down to the net," Nelson said. "Good play by Toews to find a lane."
Lee's goal extended his scoring streak to a season-high tying fourth-straight game.
Video: NYI@MIN: Barzal sets up Eberle after stealing puck
BARZAL GONNA BARZAL:
One day after telling reporters he was playing perhaps his best hockey of the season, Mathew Barzal carried that mojo into Sunday's game against the Wild.
Barzal set up the Islanders first goal of the game - which came on the Isles first shot - as he stripped Jordan Greenway and fed Jordan Eberle, who showed great patience to open up Alex Stalock (17 saves) before scoring five-hole. Eberle's goal was his first since Feb. 9.
Barzal's pass to Eberle was his second slick setup of the week, coming off the heels of his game-winning dish through Jeff Petry's legs to Lee in Thursday's 2-1 win over Montreal.
"When we were in the o-zone, I thought we created some good looks," Barzal said. "I thought we could have had a couple more. It's just battling, working hard and then I think the chemistry is really coming."
Barzal created chances all night, from a third period breakaway to setting up Nelson's OT winner. The Isles leading scorer escaped injury after crashing into post hard in the third period, scraping his neck and shoulder instead of colliding head-on.
Video: NYI 3 vs. MIN 2 (OT): Barry Trotz
NELSON SETS CAREER-HIGH IN POINTS:
Nelson set a new career-high with his 46th and 47th points of the season, picking up the secondary assist on Lee's power-play goal in addition to his game-winner. Nelson's previous career-high was 45 points, set during the 2016-17 season. His career-high in goals is 26, set during 2015-16.
CIZIKAS, BOYCHUK OUT:
Casey Cizikas and Johnny Boychuk were both out for Sunday's contest. Cizikas was sidelined for a second straight game with a lower-body strain he suffered in warmups on Saturday, while Boychuk, who has missed four straight games with an upper-body injury, took warmups, but did not play.
Robin Lehner backed up Thomas Greiss for a third straight game since returning from an upper-body injury. Greiss started both games on an Isles back-to-back for the second time this season.
With 10 games left in the regular season, the Islanders return home to host the Boston Bruins on Tuesday night. Puck drop is at 7 p.m.