The New York Islanders, who've struggled in the third period throughout the season, failed to put away the Anaheim Ducks after building a two-goal lead after 40 minutes. Once again, they paid the price.
Lubomir Visnovsky scored to tie the game with 32 seconds remaining and Saku Koivu scored on a breakaway 14 seconds into overtime, giving the Ducks a stunning 5-4 victory over the Islanders on Friday night.
"Tonight was a crazy game," said Visnovsky, who scored twice. "Every puck was bouncing on (my) stick, I was not very comfortable with the puck."
Both teams desperately needed two points to keep their flickering playoff hopes alive. The Ducks' third consecutive victory following a five-game losing streak moved them within seven points of eighth place in the West. The Islanders did get one point and are six behind eighth-place Boston in the East.
The Islanders led 4-2 after 40 minutes, and their domination of the Ducks sent the home team off the ice to a chorus of boos following the second period. But the Isles, who came into the game having been outscored by 36 goals in the third period, stopped pressing the issue in the third period and let the Ducks back in the game.
"Awful, brutal," defenseman Mark Streit said of how it felt for his club to let another lead slip away. "We thought we were pretty much in control of the game for the first 40 minutes.
"I thought in the first half of the season we struggled in the last 20 minutes," Streit added. "We've started to play better and improved as a team, got some wins. We're headed in the right direction, (but) tonight we couldn't finish it off."
Former Islander Jason Blake made it a one-goal game at 9:53, deflecting in a shot by Steve Eminger for a power-play goal. The Ducks continued to dominate play and were rewarded when Visnovsky's 40-foot blast went through a tangle of bodies in front of the net and went Martin Biron.
Koivu won it when he stripped Bruno Gervais at the Isles' blue line, raced in alone and beat Biron over the glove.
"Today in the first half of the game we were kind of waiting to see what would happen and the third period was an amazing one from us," Koivu said. "And we fought through it to the end, got huge goals with less than a minute to go and this is the type of game we need right now. We will take these points any way right now."
The Islanders, who saw their three-game winning streak end, now have been outscored 78-40 in the final period this season -- and their continued struggles appear to be a touchy subject with coach Scott Gordon, who walked away from an MSG Plus television interviewer on the team's postgame show when asked about them.
Both teams scored twice in a free-skating first period that saw the Isles' Kyle Okposo tie it with 58 seconds left by carrying down the left wing, circling the net and banking the puck in off Visnovsky. That came 53 seconds after Visnovsky's first goal, a blast off a setup by Teemu Selanne, had given Anaheim a 2-1 lead.
Okposo, who missed Tuesday's game at Vancouver with an upper-body injury and wasn't expected to play against the Ducks, put the Isles ahead 2:42 into the second period, beating Hiller with a nothing-special wrist shot for a power-play goal. That sent Hiller to the bench in favor of Curtis McElhinney.
"I didn't think that (Hiller) was handling the puck," coach Randy Carlyle said when asked about the change. "The pucks seemed to be coming off of him, directly out in front of the net. There was one puck that went through his five-hole, it hit the post behind him. The last goal went through him.
"Jonas has played extremely well for our hockey club and it's hard to do that, but I don't think of the one individual, I think of the other twenty guys. I thought the bright spot was (McElhinney), he shut the door, he let one goal in, but it was a power play goal where we should have had better coverage."
Rookie John Tavares, who assisted on Okposo's second goal, made it 4-2 at 14:31 with another power-play goal, sliding a backhander from the slot past McElhinney. He has 7 points in two games on the trip.
Selanne, seeking his 600th career goal, finished with two assists instead -- moving him past Bobby Orr on the all-time assist list with his 646th career helper.
Carlyle used Selanne for the duration of both Anaheim power plays. It became evident, however, that one individual's landmark shouldn't stand in the way of the team's success.
"(We) were guilty of trying to get him the puck, and it was very evident," Carlyle said.
"We had a little discussion on the bench, that there's so many games left, it's not an issue, (Selanne's) going to get it, and we're going to put him in situations that he can have an opportunity to get it."
The Islanders travel to Los Angeles for a game Saturday, marking No. 1 pick Tavares' first visit to Hollywood.
"We played pretty well, and it's unfortunate, but tomorrow we've got a big game. It's going to be exciting for a lot of those kids," Streit said.