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Isles end skid by beating Caps 5-3

by John Kreiser
UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- A few new line combinations helped the New York Islanders end a handful of losing streaks.

Just hours after coach Jack Capuano changed all four lines on his offensively struggling team, the Islanders rallied from a two-goal deficit to beat the Washington Capitals 5-3 on Saturday night, ending a six-game winless streak.

PA Parenteau broke a 3-3 tie with 1:46 left in regulation when he crashed the net and stuffed home the rebound of Milan Jurcina's shot after it trickled between Tomas Vokoun's pads. John Tavares added an empty-netter with 1:01 left.

Rick DiPietro, who got an assist on Tavares' goal, stopped 25 shots for his first win of the season.

"I liked the way we stayed in it tonight," said Tavares, who spent the first 11 games of the season with Parenteau on his right wing. The shuffling moved Parenteau to the right side with Brian Rolston on the left and Frans Nielsen in the middle -- and all three players scored goals, with Parenteau and Nielsen both adding two assists.

"PA played determined," Capuano said. "He played well with Johnny and Matt Moulson, and he played well tonight with Frans and Rolston. No matter what line he's on, he continues to play hard."

Said Parenteau: "I think a little change never hurts. New lines were the way to go, mix it up a little bit. It worked out tonight; hopefully we can keep it going for a while.” 

It was the Isles' first victory since beating the Rangers 4-2 on Oct. 15. They also ended a six-game losing streak against Washington, which lost for only the third time in 12 games this season.

"I knew we'd get out of this," Capuano said after the Isles beat the Caps for the first time in regulation since Oct. 18, 2007, and the Caps left the Nassau Coliseum without at least one point for the first time since March 10, 2007. "It was just a matter of time.

"It was a relief for the guys," Capuano added. "We believe in one another. It was a good win. Everybody's giving more."

It didn't look good at the start. After his team managed just 18 goals -- the lowest total for the first 10 games in franchise history -- Capuano completely revamped his lines on Saturday morning without having the new combinations skate together. They looked off-kilter in the first period, allowing goals by Joel Ward and Alex Ovechkin as the Caps skated off with a 2-0 lead after 20 minutes.

"I think the first period was a continuation of last night," said Washington forward Brooks Laich, referring to the Caps' dominating 5-1 win at Carolina on Friday. "We wanted to get that third (goal), but they pushed back."

The push started when Nielsen scored early in the second period, then set up Rolston's first goal as an Islander at 16:55 to send the teams off after 40 minutes tied at 2-2.

Matt Martin backhanded home a rebound 6:28 into the third period to give the Islanders a brief lead, but Laich tied it with a power-play goal at 9:12, setting up a wild finish that saw both teams get chances before Parenteau's game-winner.

"The third period was a dogfight," Ward said. "They got the goal."

Vokoun, who entered the night with a 14-5-1 career mark against the Islanders, had a tough night. Three of New York's goals came on rebounds; the other on Rolston's long slapper.

"You can't win when your goalie gives up three bad goals," Vokoun said. "I felt pretty good at the start. The first one I relaxed a little too much. The second one, he hit in the exact spot between the legs and it goes through.

"The fourth one, I should have covered the puck or put a rebound in the corner. I let the team down."

The Caps opened the scoring 5:24 into the game. DiPietro stopped John Carlson's shot from the right point, but the puck popped into the air. Ward gloved it to the ice, backed up a step, whirled and fired a shot that went under the crossbar for his fourth goal of the season.

Ovechkin made it 2-0 at 18:41 with a vintage Ovi rocket. With the teams playing 4-on-4, Nicklas Backstrom carried into the right corner and slid the puck back to the high slot, where Ovechkin one-timed it into the net before DiPietro could react. It was his sixth goal of the season and 16th in 23 career games against the Islanders.

The Nassau Coliseum crowd booed the Isles as they left the ice following the first period, but the boos turned to cheers 1:41 into the second when they broke a scoreless drought that had reached 111 minutes and 20 seconds. Nielsen had his snap shot from the slot stopped by Vokoun, but picked up the rebound and slid a backhander from the lower right circle through the five-hole at 1:41.

"We challenged ourselves to be better," Tavares said when asked what was said between periods.

The Islanders began to control more of the play after the middle of the period. They nearly tied it just when Travis Hamonic's point blast pinged the post, and finally did get even at 16:55 when Rolston took a pass from Nielsen and ripped a 45-foot slap shot that got through Vokoun's pads. It was the 336th goal of his career and his first as an Islander.

"It's a big weight off my shoulders," said Rolston, who moved up from the third to the second line.
Martin put the Isles ahead when he went to the net and shoveled home a backhander after Vokoun stopped a shot by Steve Staios but couldn't control it. However, Staios was the player in the box when Laich tied it with a sizzling snap shot from just above the left faceoff dot less than three minutes later for his second goal of the season.

But unlike earlier in the season, the Islanders found a way to win.

"Tonight was the best way to handle adversity," Tavares said. "We'll learn from it and carry this into the next game (at Boston on Monday).
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