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Islanders score seven goals in third to top Canucks

by Kevin Woodley

VANCOUVER -- New York Islanders goaltender Evgeni Nabokov has seen a lot during 13 seasons in the NHL, but none of it compares to what he witnessed Monday night.

Seven Islanders scored in a wild third period as New York erased a 3-0 deficit before recovering from a blown lead of its own to beat the Vancouver Canucks 7-4 at Rogers Arena.

"I'm not going to lie, I haven't seen anything like that," said Nabokov, who made 20 saves. "Not eight goals in one period. Crazy."

The craziness started with three New York power-play goals, including one on a 5-on-3, to tie the game in the opening 3:36 of the third period, and the Islanders took the lead one second after another power play expired.

They gave it back when Canucks defenseman Christopher Tanev scored midway through the period, but Islanders forward Matt Martin scored the game-winning goal 10 seconds later.

"The coaches made it clear we didn't do enough in the second period and we didn't play for one another, and if we didn't pick up our game in the third period, they'd have no problem taking guys out of the lineup and not dressing everybody," Martin said.

Instead, almost everybody scored in the third.

Anders Lee added an insurance goal 1:41 after Martin scored, and Cal Clutterbuck scored into an empty net with 17.3 second left, matching the Islanders' franchise record for goals in one period.

"I don't know if I have ever been a part of a game like that," said Kyle Okposo, who had three assists for New York.

The Islanders have been part of third-period comebacks of late, but on the losing side, blowing leads in the first three games of their four-game trip through Western Canada and Winnipeg.

"It's nice to be on the other side," said Josh Bailey, who scored 1:13 into the third period to start the comeback. "It gets pretty frustrating when it keeps happening to you."

Frustration wasn't a strong enough word for the Canucks, who were stunned after blowing the 3-0 lead and a chance to post consecutive wins for the first time in seven weeks.

"This is a kick in the teeth," coach John Tortorella said. "It will take more than the normal coach speak to get by it."

Vancouver came into the game ranked fifth in the NHL on the penalty kill, but the unit fell apart quickly in the third period.

Bailey, Ryan Strome and Calvin de Haan scored power-play goals over a 2:23 span to tie the game, and Frans Nielsen put the Islanders immediately after another power play expired less than three minutes later.

"Blowing it like that, it's embarrassing," said Ryan Kesler, who gave Vancouver it first three-goal cushion since mid-December midway through the second period. "Give them credit, but let's be honest, that's not one of the top teams in the League."

The Islanders had seven shots on goal with five minutes left in the second period, but after rallying with a couple chances late in the period, they came out firing on the power play early in the third.

"We were extremely flat, didn't look like we even wanted to be here," Okposo said. "It was a bit embarrassing, but we came out in the third, (Bailey) got a big goal for us to start it off, and we smelled blood and we rolled from there."

With rookie Nicklas Jensen serving a slashing penalty, Bailey converted a nice cross-ice pass from Matt Donovan on the back door to close the gap. Jensen was back in the penalty box for an offensive zone hook when Kevin Bieksa was penalized for knocking the net off after a long Okposo shot snuck through Lack and just wide.

Strome converted the ensuing 5-on-3 after some nice passing left him with a mostly empty net from a sharp angle at 3:14, and de Haan beat a screened Eddie Lack from the blue line 22 seconds later.

Nielsen beat Lack with a short-side rebound at 6:22.

"It's not only the (penalty killers') fault, it's my fault too," said Lack, who made 21 saves. "I need to stop the puck and I didn't tonight."

New York blew a third-period lead for the fourth straight game on their road trip when Tanev tied the game at 4-4 at 9:54. But Martin restored the New York lead on the next shift, beating Lack with a backhand from the slot through traffic after the Canucks rookie goaltender mishandled the puck behind the net.

“It shows our resiliency and our character in the room that we don’t give up,” Martin said. “We’ve probably won as many games coming back in the third as we have playing with the lead."

Not quite, but it's close. The Islanders lead the NHL with eight wins when trailing after two periods (8-22-2), but they have only won nine times (9-6-5) when they have the lead after 40 minutes.

"Once we got that second goal, we knew we had something going and just wanted to keep our foot on the gas," Okposo said. "We let off a little in the shift leading up to their fourth goal, but we got right back on it, and Martin got us a huge goal and we never looked back."

Chris Higgins and Kesler scored power-play goals for Vancouver, and Henrik Sedin snapped a 23-game goal drought. But it all came unraveled in the third period as the Canucks lost for the 12th time in the past 14 games in matching a franchise record for most goals allowed in a period, set twice by the Edmonton Oilers in the mid-1980s.

The loss leaves Vancouver four points behind the Dallas Stars for the final Western Conference wild-card berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and the Stars have played three fewer games.

"We've got to figure it out or we're going to be packing bags and going home for the summer," Kesler said.

The Islanders' outburst came after losing top-line left wing Michael Grabner with six minutes left in the second period. Grabner sustained an upper-body injury trying to hit Tanev and will be re-evaluated when the Islanders return home.

"Like I told the guys after, Xs and Os are great," coach Jack Capuano said. "But it was the effort and the will and desire and the composure and the confidence that we talked about, and they went out in the third period and executed. Hopefully our guys can build off that."

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