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Coyotes rally to beat Islanders 4-3 in shootout

by Brian Compton /

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Nathan Lawson was subjected to a shootout in his NHL debut Saturday night. It didn't go well.

Shane Doan, Radim Vrbata and Kyle Turris all beat Lawson in the breakaway competition as the Phoenix Coyotes handed Lawson and the New York Islanders a 4-3 loss at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

Lawson, who was recalled by the Isles on an emergency basis Saturday morning after Rick DiPietro experienced swelling in his left knee, made 32 saves during regulation and overtime but looked overmatched in the shootout, as Doan scored on a snap shot, Vrbata on a backhander and Turris on a wrister after he banked the puck off his skate.

"It's hit and miss," Lawson said when asked how he's fared historically in the shootout. "But I mean, it's no excuse. I need to be better."

The Isles shocked the majority of the hockey world Saturday morning when they announced Lawson would get the start over Dwayne Roloson, who has played well this season despite the team's struggles. Lawson, 27, had a 3.78 goals-against average in nine appearances with AHL Bridgeport.

"It was a good opportunity for him to come in here," Isles interim coach Jack Capuano said. "He was playing well at Bridgeport. I thought he was excellent. I thought he was one of our best players on the ice."

The Coyotes, who won 14 of 20 shootouts in 2009-10, won for just the second time in five shootouts this season.

The Islanders (5-18-6), who held a 3-2 lead until Martin Hanzal scored with 1:28 left in regulation, failed to win back-to-back games for the first time since they won three straight from Oct. 16-21. They'll look to bounce back on Wednesday night when the Tampa Bay Lightning come to town.

"Up until about a minute and a half left in the third, it felt really good," Lawson said of his first NHL appearance. "I'm pretty disappointed in that last goal. It's a stepping stone. We got one point, so just take the positives, I guess. It felt like another game for me. I'm just real disappointed in losing."

Phoenix (15-9-7), which received a 41-save performance from Jason LaBarbera, won for the first time on a six-game road trip that continues Monday night at Pittsburgh. The Coyotes are 1-1-1 thus far.

Considering they were less than 90 seconds from leaving Long Island with nothing, the two points were like an early Christmas gift as the Coyotes scramble for position in the extremely tight Western Conference race.

"You look at the standings, it's going to be probably 97, 98 points just to get into the playoffs," Doan said. "That's pretty incredible. We know it's going to be difficult. There's going to be about 14 or 15 different teams battling for the last three or four spots."

Phoenix took a 1-0 lead 6:57 into the game on a power-play goal by Vrbata. After Matt Martin was whistled for charging, Vrbata parked himself in front of the net and redirected Doan's blast from the point past Lawson for his seventh goal of the season.

Thanks to LaBarbera. The Coyotes held the one-goal lead after 20 minutes despite being outshot 19-8 in the opening period.

"I was excited … it was probably the first time in two years I got to play two games in a row like that," LaBarbera said. "It's a good opportunity right now to play some games. You've just got to give the guys a chance to win every night and just build from there."

New York finally got on the board when Jesse Joensuu scored 9:17 into the second period. With the teams at even strength, John Tavares sent a pretty cross-ice feed to Joensuu, who ripped a gorgeous wrister from the left circle just underneath the crossbar to make it 1-1. It was Joensuu's second goal of the season.

The Islanders grabbed their first lead of the night when Michael Grabner scored with 5:14 remaining in the second period. Joensuu was once again the catalyst, as he collected a loose puck in the slot and attempted to slide it across to Grabner, but the puck redirected off the latter's left skate and past LaBarbera to make it 2-1. Grabner was credited with his seventh goal of the season.

But Phoenix evened things up just 4:03 into the third, when Wojtek Wolski notched his fifth goal of the season. With the teams at even strength, Oliver Ekman-Larsson fired a pass around the boards to Doan, who sent a pass from behind the net in front to Wolski for an easy tap-in.

"Obviously, there's some things in our game that have to improve," Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said. "Fortunately, we found a way tonight. We're looking for some people to contribute. That's who we have to be. Our team is a score-by-committee team. We need everybody chipping in. Fortunately tonight, we had enough guys chipping in to get us some points."

New York quickly restored the lead on a power-play goal by Rob Schremp. After Taylor Pyatt was nailed for his second minor of the night, Schremp whacked his own rebound past LaBarbera for his sixth goal of the season. The Isles, who went 12 straight games without a power-play goal, have scored via the man advantage in three of their last four contests.

Phoenix -- which killed seven of the Isles' eight power plays -- forced overtime when Hanzal scored with just 1:28 remaining in regulation. Hanzal, who has nine goals this season, collected Vrbata's rebound and roofed it over Lawson to make it 3-3.

"I think it kind of got tipped and it was just coming kind of soft and I just tried to kick it out," Lawson said. "I saw that guy coming in. I just made a poor decision on a save selection there. He just beat me with it. It's inexcusable."

LaBarbera, who allowed a goal to Frans Nielsen in the opening round of the shootout before denying Schremp, received his second straight start for the Coyotes. Ilya Bryzgalov, the team's No. 1 goaltender, is nursing an upper-body injury and was sent back to Phoenix – meaning LaBarbera may be in line for more playing time.

"It's a totally different mindset because I'm used to going three weeks, four weeks without playing," LaBarbera said. "You've got to ramp it up in practice and stuff. It's kind of a flashback almost for me when I played a lot. It's good for me to get a few games in like that. Hopefully I can just run with it while I get the opportunity."

Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL


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