– Anyone who questions the motivation of teams who are playing out the string with virtually no hope of making the postseason often underestimates the power of pride.
Just ask New York Islanders
captain Mark Streit
's goal in the sixth round of the shootout gave the Islanders a 3-2 win Saturday against the Montreal Canadiens
in a game where the loser would end up in last place in the Eastern Conference.
For Streit, that fact alone is plenty motivating.
"You know, 10 days ago, we were in the race for the eighth playoff spot," said Streit, who snapped a 17-game goal drought with his 6th of the season in the second period. "We just gave some games away, we had leads, we were in charge of the games and three times in a row we lost in the last minute or in OT. All of a sudden, you find yourself in the 15th spot in the Eastern Conference. We have a lot of pride here and a lot of character, and we don't want to finish last."
The Islanders' victory allowed them to climb out of the basement and past the Canadiens into 14th place. Both teams are tied with 69 points, but the Islanders hold a game in hand on Montreal.
After Al Montoya
stopped Andrei Markov
's slap shot from about 10 feet out, Bailey beat Peter Budaj
with a quick shot to the stick side to win the game.
"I just couldn't make that last save," said Budaj, whose 36 saves were a season high.
also scored in regulation for the Islanders (29-32-11), who snapped a five-game winless slide and won for just the third time in 11 games.
"We've been going through a tough stretch with our confidence level," said Islanders coach Jack Capuano. "We were putting a lot of shots on (Budaj) but he was making some big saves, then we gave up the second (goal), but we still battled. With the young players that we have, that's what we like to see. I thought everyone stepped up their game tonight, and it was a game I thought we deserved to win."
scored the first of his career and Louis Leblanc
scored the tying goal in the third period for the Canadiens (28-32-13), who still have not lost in regulation in six games (3-0-3) and who have now gone to overtime in four straight games (1-0-3).
"It says a lot about our character," said Canadiens coach Randy Cunneyworth. "We have a lot of key guys out of our lineup who would make a difference in a positive way. But I liked the way we battled."
The Canadiens' injured list for this game included center Scott Gomez
, captain Brian Gionta
, forwards Mathieu Darche
and Travis Moen
and defensemen Tomas Kaberle
and Raphael Diaz
– one of five active NHL players born on St. Patrick's Day – celebrated his 24th birthday with a spirited tilt against gritty forward Matt Martin
and scoring the takedown. White also dished out 5 hits, tied for the game-high.
The Canadiens and their top defense pairing of Josh Gorges
and P.K. Subban
managed to keep the red hot John Tavares
off the scoresheet, snapping his four-game goal streak.
Montoya stopped 28 pucks for the Islanders in his first start since Feb. 20.
The Canadiens opened the scoring at 2:53 of the first on a play that began with a poor Streit pass in his own end to Dylan Reese
. That allowed Palushaj to win a puck battle along the boards and shovel the puck from behind the goal line off Montoya and in.
But overall, Streit said the Islanders goaltender did well considering the long layoff.
"The first goal was a little unfortunate, but he didn't play in a while and it's always tough to come back," Streit said. "He shook it off and right after he made some key saves on their power play. They had two or three rebounds and he made some nice saves. After that, he was just so confident."
The Islanders tied it back up on the power play at 2:00 of the second on a goal that had the Canadiens upset after Matt Moulson
set what looked like a pick on White at the Canadiens' blue line. Streit was able to cross the blue line unfettered and had an unimpeded lane to the net, where he ably beat Budaj through the legs for his sixth of the season and his first since Feb. 11 – a span of 17 games without scoring.
"That is called so often and it was so blatant, we couldn't believe our eyes," Cunneyworth said. "That was puzzling for me that both guys would disregard it like that."
The Islanders went ahead on a brilliant play by Travis Hamonic
, who lobbed a Hail Mary pass from his own end to Nielsen at the Canadiens' blue line. Nielsen caught the puck and came in alone on the right wing, rifling a wrist shot over Budaj's left shoulder for his 14th of the season at 16:05 of the second, establishing a new career high in goals.
"Originally my first look was to the wall, but that play wasn't there and I saw Fransie breaking and that was my only option to flip it up to him," Hamonic said. "(You) usually try those plays and it doesn't work out very well, but this time it worked out pretty good."
The Canadiens tied it up at 3:38 of the third on a great rush by Subban, who eventually found Leblanc alone in the slot for a top corner backhand that beat Montoya clean for the rookie's fourth of the season. The assist gave Subban 10 points in his last 11 games, and his 28:08 of ice time was his third game in a row north of the 28-minute mark, including twice in two nights.
"He recovers very quickly," said Cunneyworth. "He's played well of late and has handled all the ice time we've given him. He makes things happen out there. Offensively he's very creative and defensively he's gotten away from a lot of the extra work that he doesn't really need to do. We'll continue to give him as much (ice time) as we can. He's earned it."
had a marvelous opportunity to put the Islanders ahead with just under five minutes to play in regulation, but with a wide open net in front of him he had a hard pass bounce off his stick and roll wide.
Streit was called for delay of game with 1:17 to play in regulation, giving the Canadiens a man advantage that carried over to the first 43 seconds of overtime. But Montreal managed just a single shot on goal on the power play, and that was a buzzer-beater from the neutral zone at the end of regulation by Chris Campoli
The Canadiens did manage four shots on goal to the Islanders' one in the overtime period, and Montoya had to be sharp to get the game to a shootout.