The New York Islanders’ improved play in the final days before Christmas carried right through the holiday break -- and a snowstorm.
Dwayne Roloson made 38 saves and the Islanders got goals by Blake Comeau, Michael Grabner, PA Parenteau and James Wisniewski to beat the Montreal Canadiens 4-1 on Sunday night in a game played despite the blizzard that socked Long Island and kept most ticketholders at home.
The Canadiens were able to fly into Farmingdale, N.Y., on Sunday morning before the full force of the storm hit, and with the Islanders scheduled for a game at New York on Monday, the NHL decided to play the game as scheduled. All 3,136 fans who showed up, including many who made the trip from Montreal and arrived before the storm, were invited to sit in the lower bowl of the Nassau Coliseum.
"Right off the bat, we knew with the storm it was going to be a hard crowd for us," Parenteau said. "When you get the first goal, it changes everything."
Those who got to the building saw the Islanders beat the Canadiens in regulation for the first time in their last 16 meetings. Montreal had been 12-0-3 against New York since a 3-2 loss at the Coliseum on Feb. 24, 2007.
The Islanders matched their season best by winning for the third time in a row and are 4-0-1 in their last five – a big turnaround after a stretch that saw them lost 20 of 21 games in one stretch.
"Our guys came out and played a great game. We did everything we had to do defensively," said Roloson, who has allowed just one goal in each of the three wins. "It's been going on for a while. We're playing well, we're playing with confidence and we're capitalizing on our chances."
Though they've had plenty of shaky moments during their streak, the Islanders look much improved from the team that won just once from late October through mid-November.
"I think it's just the confidence," Roloson said when asked what's making the difference. "Our work ethic has been great. We're doing the little things, and we've eliminated some of the turnovers. It's just being confident with the puck and realizing we have to play smart if we're going to win games."
Montreal, which got a goal by Tomas Plekanec at 7:51 of the third period to spoil Roloson’s bid for his first shutout of the season, has lost six of eight games and is just 1-3-0 on a seven-game road trip that continues Tuesday in Washington.
"We gave them a couple of easy breaks and then penalties -- the big one and a bunch of others. It's discouraging," Canadiens defenseman Hal Gill said. "There are some areas we need to be better, but sometimes it's just making the little bounces go your way.
"We have to pick up that little edge."
Montreal mounted first sustained best pressure of the game just after the 11-minute mark of the opening period, only to see the Islanders score on the return rush. Rob Schremp started a breakout along the left boards in his own zone, raced through center ice and fed Comeau as he split the defense, Comeau raced in, made a deke and put a 15-foot wrister through Carey Price’s pads at 11:04 for his eighth of the season.
Montreal started the second period by killing off the last 1:24 of a penalty to Roman Hamrlik, then began to dominate the play. The Canadiens had the first seven shots of the period and forced Roloson to make a pair of good stops on Andrei Kostitsyn, including one after the Belarusian forward found himself all alone in front.
Montreal got its first power play when John Tavares was called for hooking at the 9-minute mark, and Roloson came up big on Mike Cammalleri’s one-timer from the left circle a minute into the man advantage, then stopped Hamrlik’s wide-open blast a few seconds later.
"Rollie was excellent for us again," interim coach Jack Capuano said. "Tonight he was key, especially in the second period when the ice was tilted."
Price nearly cost himself a goal at 11:22 when he mishandled the puck behind the net and had it pop out in front. Matt Moulson slid it toward the goal line, JJohn Tavares tried to jam it in and the Isles thought the puck had gone over the line before Josh Gorges swept it away. Referee Fredrick L’Ecuyer ruled no goal, and the call stood after a video review.
The Canadiens did pay for some sloppy puckhandling at 18:18 when Frans Nielsen chopped away a puck at the Isles’ blue line after a bad pass. Grabner outraced defenseman Alexander Picard for the puck, went in alone and lifted a quick forehand shot over Price for his eighth of the season. Despite outshooting the Islanders 16-7 in the middle period, the Canadiens went to the locker room down 2-0.
Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty was given a boarding major and a game misconduct 1:29 into the third period when he ran Isles defenseman Mark Eaten headfirst into the end boards. The Islanders converted just 33 seconds later when Parenteau found a loose puck after a deflection and put it into a wide-open net. With Pacioretty still in the box, Scott Gomez was called for tripping at 3:46, and Wisniewski’s power-play screamer from 40 feet hit the back of the net at 4:22. It was his third goal of the season and first since scoring at Montreal on Oct. 27.
Plekanec scored on a wrister from the left circle after a giveaway by Wisniewski to ruin Roloson’s shutout bid.
"Too many penalties and indiscipline were factors in the game, and not enough intensity in our game," Canadiens coach Jacques Martin said. "The first two goals were direct mistakes. The first one an odd-man rush -- we didn't have a third man -- and on the second goal, a turnover in the neutral zone."
Material from team media and wire services was used in this report