MONTREAL -- It's been nearly six years since Thomas Hickey was selected with the No 4 pick in the 2007 NHL Draft, and he's been waiting at least that long to experience what he felt Thursday night.
Hickey scored the first goal of his career on the tail end of a sensational passing play with Michael Grabner and John Tavares at 3:12 of overtime to give the New York Islanders a 4-3 win against the Montreal Canadiens.
"I don't think I've ever had a better feeling in hockey," said Hickey, who was drafted by the Los Angeles Kings and picked up on waivers by the Islanders this Jan. 15. "That's special and the setting was unique playing here and being in overtime. I've waited a long time to get that opportunity. It's just a very good feeling and I'm thankful."
Hickey's father Denis came in from Calgary and for the first time saw his son play in the NHL at Ottawa on Tuesday night. He was in the Bell Centre stands again Thursday.
"He's smiling right now, I know that," Hickey said, smiling himself. "He's my biggest supporter. My parents put in a lot of time when I was growing up in the hopes to see something like that. For him to be here is really special."
The play made by Tavares to make Hickey's goal happen was pretty special as well.
Tavares entered the Canadiens zone and as he cut to the middle on Canadiens defenseman Raphael Diaz, he fell, but still managed to flick a pass with one hand lying on his side over to Grabner, who immediately fed Hickey on the other side of the net for his first goal in his 10th career game.
"When I originally made the cut back I got the [defenseman] turned the way I wanted to, and I wanted to shoot it myself but I lost my edge," Tavares said. "I heard [Grabner] call for it as he was cutting behind me, and then as I was falling I saw him kind of skating and it was just a desperation poke to him. Lucky enough it went to him, and I didn't know Thomas was there and [Grabner] made a good play to him."
Hickey, a defenseman, didn't know what exactly he was doing so deep in the Canadiens zone.
"You know what? I probably shouldn't have been up there, to be honest," he said. "I don't know what I was doing. If the puck got turned over I'd probably be in a lot of trouble right now."
Matt Moulson scored his eighth and ninth of the season, and Frans Nielsen had the equalizer in the third period for the Islanders (7-9-1), who got 30 saves from Evgeni Nabokov to keep them in the game long enough to mount a comeback from a 3-1 deficit.
The win was the Islanders' third in 10 games and snapped a two-game losing streak, but Tavares said his team needs to stop putting itself in the position where it needs a comeback to win a game.
"The biggest thing we need to realize is that we need more for a full 60 minutes, we need more of that effort we showed in the second and really in the third period we played much better," said Tavares, who had two assists to raise his point total to a team-leading 22. "We really need that effort and attention to detail and putting pressure on teams right away. We have to understand that; we can't just think we're going to start off slow and work our way back every time."
Max Pacioretty scored twice, and Travis Moen added one for the Canadiens (11-4-2), who saw their five-game win streak end.
It was Pacioretty's third straight game with a goal after going scoreless in his first 10 games of the season.
"I think going into that third period we were up but it felt like we were panicking already," Pacioretty said. "It's a bad feeling. We need to stick to the game plan for 60 minutes, in this case 65 minutes, and play in their end. But we were back on our heels and took some penalties and gave them a lot of momentum."
With Montreal ahead 3-2 heading into the third period, New York finally began to carry the play after being outshot 28-15 through 40 minutes.
The persistence paid off at 9:51 of the third when Josh Bailey entered the zone and found a trailing Nielsen all by himself in the slot. His laser wrist shot beat Carey Price high to the glove side for his second of the season and tied the game 3-3.
The Canadiens were given a golden opportunity to win it in regulation when Mark Streit was called for high-sticking with the teams already skating 4-on-4, leaving Montreal 36 seconds of 4-on-3 power-play time.
But the Islanders killed that effectively as well as the subsequent 5-on-4. Montreal got another power play at 17:03 when Lubomir Visnovsky was called for interference, but the Islanders did not allow a shot on goal on Nabokov and the teams headed to overtime.
"[The power play] wasn't good enough in the third," Pacioretty said, referring specifically to the 4-on-3. "There were some bad decisions by me on the power play in the third. The coach relies on you, takes a timeout for you to stay out there on the power play, you've got to do a lot better than that. I wish I could get that back."
The Islanders began the game extremely strong, nearly opening the scoring when Streit sent Tavares in alone 30 seconds after the face off, but Price kept it out. The Islanders would test him once more in the first as the Canadiens dominated the rest of the period.
Less than 20 seconds after that Tavares chance, the Canadiens got on the board when Colby Armstrong lifted the puck off Andrew MacDonald behind the Islanders net and found Moen alone in the slot. He tucked his shot inside the far post behind Nabokov for his second goal of the season at 0:49.
The Canadiens' power play broke an 0-for-11 drought when P.K. Subban fed David Desharnais near the corner, and he in turn found Pacioretty in the slot for a one-timer at 11:02 to put Montreal up 2-0.
The Islanders power play did its thing 34 seconds into the second when Streit's point shot was tipped in front by Moulson to make it 2-1, but Pacioretty made it 3-1 Canadiens at 8:30 of the second on another nice feed from Desharnais for a one-timer.
A holding penalty to Desharnais gave the Islanders their second power play of the game, and they took 25 seconds to convert, with Tavares finding Moulson alone in the slot for his ninth of the season at 16:57 to make it 3-2 after two periods.