ST. PAUL, Minn. - Frans Nielsen scored the only goal in the shootout while Al Montoya had his glove in good form, giving the New York Islanders their first extra-time victory of the season, 2-1 over the Minnesota Wild on Saturday night.
Andy McDonald scored in his first game back from injury for the Islanders, but Cal Clutterbuck tied it midway through the second period. Niklas Backstrom stood strong in the Minnesota net, making 35 saves.
Backstrom kicked aside a shot by John Tavares in the first round of the shootout but let Nielsen's sail over his head into the top of the net. Backstrom has given up 10 shootout goals on 20 shots this season. The Wild lost their second straight decision by shootout and are 0-1-2 since a seven-game winning streak.
Montoya stopped Matt Cullen's backhander, then got his glove on shots by Marek Zidlicky and Dany Heatley to seal the victory, the first by the Islanders in their last five games.
The Islanders, in last place in the Eastern Conference, have beaten the Wild twice and held them to 21 shots on goal each time ??? New York's two lowest totals this season.
This was an example by the Wild, though, of how good teams take points when they're not at their best. They lead the NHL with 45 points after playing without captain and first-line centre Mikko Koivu, who tops the team with 28 points.
Right wing Jarod Palmer, recalled from the AHL affiliate Houston Aeros the day before, was the latest fill-in weaved into the lineup by first-year coach Mike Yeo. Palmer became the 10th rookie and 33rd player to play for the Wild this season, and the 25-year-old native of Fridley, Minn., was all over the ice, getting four shots on goal through the first two periods.
He came up to replace left wing Guillaume Latendresse, whose concussion recurrence landed him back on injured reserve. Latendresse missed 15 games, came back for one and then left the last game after just one period when his symptoms returned.
Yeo played seven defencemen and patched together the last two lines, and left wing Colton Gillies and defenceman Marco Scandella both hobbled off in the first period after blocking shots with their feet. They were able to return to the ice.
The loss of Koivu and Latendresse left the Wild without four of their top six forwards, with Devin Setoguchi (lower body) and Pierre-Marc Bouchard (facial injuries) still out. Right wing Casey Wellman was out again, too, because of an upper-body injury.
The altered first line came through when it counted. Heatley's shot from the top of the circle was tipped toward the net by Cullen, and Clutterbuck got a big enough piece of the rebound to control it before tapping in the puck as his stick scraped the goal post next to Montoya.
The Islanders outshot the Wild 24-9 through the first two periods, including 15-4 in the middle frame, and their lead would've been much bigger if it weren't for Backstrom, who made tough save after tough save with the puck in his zone the majority of the night.
The Wild lead the NHL in blocked shots, so his defencemen helped, too, but Backstrom was on his game. During an Islanders power play in the second period, he made a glove save of a short shot by Tavares and snagged the rebound by Matt Moulson, too.
After Backstrom sprawled out on his stomach to push aside a shot by Moulson later, Tavares tracked down the puck in the corner and cycled it over to McDonald for the slapshot that zipped past Backstrom for a 1-0 lead.
The Islanders have had their own health problems. Former Wild right wing Brian Rolston and defenceman Steve Staios were each scratched because of a concussion, and four other players remained on injured reserve. They did get right wing Nino Niederrieter (concussion) back in the lineup as well as McDonald, who missed the last seven games because of a leg injury.
NOTES: Palmer became the fifth native Minnesotan to play for the Wild this season. ... Only five Wild players have appeared in all 32 games this season: Heatley, Kyle Brodziak, Darroll Powe, Nick Schultz and Jared Spurgeon. ... The Islanders have been outscored 36-16 in the third period this season. ... Tavares has seven assists in his last eight games.