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Late goal by Cizikas helps Islanders edge Oilers

by John Kreiser

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- The New York Islanders' fourth line came to the rescue on Tuesday.

Casey Cizikas scored the tiebreaking goal with 4:37 remaining, and the Islanders defeated the Edmonton Oilers 3-2 at Nassau Coliseum.

"They play the right way," coach Jack Capuano said of the line centered by Cizikas with Matt Martin and Colin McDonald on the wings. "They were good tonight, and they found a way to get it done."

The Oilers dominated play for most of the third period but were unable to get the go-ahead goal past Jaroslav Halak. On one of the Islanders' rare forays into the Edmonton zone, McDonald dove and laid out on his stomach to poke the puck past the defense to Cizikas, who was all alone in the slot and one-timed a shot past Viktor Fasth for his fifth goal of the season, breaking a 2-2 tie.

"That was just a desperation play on my part," McDonald said. "I wanted to take the puck wide, but it rolled up on me. I saw Casey before I got the puck, so I knew where he was going to be. It was fortunate that it worked out."

McDonald and Josh Bailey also had goals for the Islanders (35-18-1), who have won three of their past four games and eight in a row against the Oilers at the Coliseum. They are three points ahead of the second-place Pittsburgh Penguins in the Metropolitan Division.

McDonald has stepped in for right wing Cal Clutterbuck, who's out because of an upper-body injury, and has two goals in as many games since being recalled from Bridgeport of the American Hockey League. He cleared waivers and was sent to the AHL prior to this season after spending the previous two with the Islanders.

"He's had a great attitude. He's got a tremendous work ethic," New York captain John Tavares said. "It's great to see him get rewarded. He's proven he can play in this League, but with the depth we have this year, for him it was realizing where he can be better and staying patient. You can see he's playing well."

New York's 35 wins are one more than it managed all last season. The Islanders wouldn't have earned two points Tuesday without the goaltending of Halak.

After facing all of 10 shots in a 3-2 road victory against the Buffalo Sabres on Sunday, Halak was pelted with 36 shots and saved 34 of them, including all 15 he faced in the third period when the Oilers carried the play.

"Jaro's been good all year," Tavares said. "He knows what he needs to do. In some games, maybe you don't see as many chances, so you have to stay mentally sharp."

Ryan Hamilton and Anton Lander scored for Edmonton (15-31-9), which is 1-2-0 at the halfway point of its six-game road trip. Fasth finished with 25 saves.

"We can't play one game good and three games bad," Lander said. "We have to find a way to play good every night. That's what good teams do."

The Oilers dominated play for much of the game even though they were playing on back-to-back nights and for the third time in four days. Coach Todd Nelson had no complaints with their performance.

"I liked the way our guys played. Back-to-back game against a very tough opponent, a good hockey team, I can't complain at all about that effort," he said. "It was outstanding. If we keep playing like that and getting our opportunities to score, they'll go in."

After the Islanders carried the play for the first few minutes, the Oilers, owners of the League's third-worst power play, victimized the NHL's bottom-ranked penalty-killing unit to take a 1-0 lead. With Anders Lee off for hooking, Hamilton, one of two injury call-ups made by the Oilers earlier in the day after Taylor Hall and Benoit Pouliot were placed on injured reserve, deflected Nail Yakupov's shot through Halak's legs at 10:17.

It was the first NHL goal for Hamilton, who had played 14 NHL games during parts of the previous three seasons.

"It happened so quick," said Hamilton, who along with goaltender Richard Bachman had to make his way from Oklahoma City to New York for the game. "It's just a pleasure to be up here. I wasn't thinking about the travel. It was just fun to be out on the ice and playing at this level."

The lead lasted a little more than three minutes until McDonald scored his second goal in as many games since being recalled on Sunday. Fasth stopped Matt Martin's wide-open shot from 10 feet but was defenseless when the rebound came right to McDonald for a chip into a half-empty net.

New York forced Fasth into a number of excellent saves in the first half of the second period, and finally grabbed the lead at 11:27. Tavares won an offensive-zone faceoff, and Lee got the puck to the left point, where defenseman Thomas Hickey took a harmless-looking wrist shot. But Bailey got a piece of it and deflected the puck high into the net for his ninth of the season.

The Oilers got even at 16:34 with another power-play goal. Lander was all alone in the slot to send a passout from Jordan Eberle high into the net for his second goal of the season. It came with Bailey in the penalty box for an extra two minutes after an altercation with Edmonton's Matt Hendricks.

Halak preserved the tie 2:10 into the third period when he hugged the left post and denied a stuff try by Hamilton, who was all alone in the slot. The Islanders got a break 4 ½ minutes later when Eberle picked up a rebound but hit the post to Halak's left with the goaltender out of position. The Oilers had the first eight shots on goal in the third period, before Fasth robbed Lee on a deflection at 9:18, and they controlled play for minutes at a time.

"We turned pucks over, we didn't get pucks in deep. We weren't playing fast the way we need to," Cizikas said. "It goes to show when we get away from our game, that's what happens. But we found a way to get the two points tonight and that's all that matters."

The Oilers left their final visit to the Coliseum empty-handed. They continue their trip against the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday.

"That's a tough loss," Hamilton said, "but there are definitely things we can build off of for the next game."

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