UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Anders Lee broke a tie with 2:57 remaining in the third period, and the New York Islanders defeated the Montreal Canadiens 2-1 at Nassau Coliseum on Thursday.
Thomas Greiss made 33 saves, and Adam Pelech scored for New York (41-22-7), which has won four of its past five games and remained two points behind the Washington Capitals for first place in the Metropolitan Division. Washington defeated the Philadelphia Flyers 5-2 on Thursday.
"We can't control anything outside of ourselves," Lee said. "The scoreboard watching is always there; you always see what's going on, but all we can worry about is us and what we have to do."
[WATCH: All Canadiens vs. Islanders highlights]
Jordie Benn scored, and Carey Price made 36 saves for Montreal (37-27-7), which is tied with the Columbus Blue Jackets for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference.
"I thought the crowd was crazy; the building was rocking," Price said. "We played a team that looked like they're ready for the playoffs."
Lee scored his 25th goal of the season when Mathew Barzal won a puck battle against Canadiens forward Max Domi at the Islanders blue line and skated up the right side on a 2-on-1 with Lee, who received Barzal's cross-ice pass and scored on a wrist shot from low in the left face-off circle to make it 2-1.
"These are the tight games you've got to have," Lee said. "You just try to keep winning, keep stacking them on. Obviously this is a team that's doing the same playoff push that we are, so it's going to be tight the rest of the way.
"I think it doubles down the importance a little bit. But you start getting to single-digit games left, they're all huge."
Pelech made it 1-0 at 1:20 of the second period. Price made an initial save on Brock Nelson's shot from the right circle, but the rebound trickled to the slot to Pelech, who scored on a wrist shot.
Video: MTL@NYI: Pelech buries rebound to kick off scoring
"[Pelech] was outstanding," Islanders coach Barry Trotz said. "He was efficient; obviously he got the goal. I just thought he was really good tonight. He was committed to play firm in the defensive zone and he's jumping up at the right times. He's playing with confidence."
Greiss kept the Canadiens off the scoreboard when he stretched to his right and got his pad on Jonathan Drouin's one-timer from the left circle at 6:14.
But Benn tied it 1-1 for Montreal on a shot from the left point that found its way through traffic and past Greiss at 18:10.
Video: MTL@NYI: Benn beats Greiss from the point
Greiss preserved the tie when he made back-to-back saves against Jesperi Kotkaniemi from point-blank at 8:35 of the third.
"We got rewarded in the end," Greiss said. "You saw the atmosphere out there, both teams going hard. These are fun games to play. Everybody's chipping in."
New York outshot Montreal 15-9 in the first period.
"We got totally outclassed in that first period," Canadiens coach Claude Julien said. "Outmuscled, outraced … you can name it, they were all over us in the first. If you're a team trying to make the playoffs, you should be really disappointed with that and maybe even frustrated.
"We had a bad first and we ended up the same way we started, with a real bad decision with about three minutes left in the game. It cost us a point, maybe even two."
They said it
"I just think we stopped playing like we had a chip on our shoulder. We need to get back to that. We have a team that can do it. We have a team that can make a playoff run. We have it. We've just got to go do it." -- Canadiens forward Andrew Shaw
"I got pretty excited. I just kind of wanted it to develop; I wanted to see who was coming up with me. I knew I kind of had of a clear-cut [look], so fortunately it was [Lee]. I wouldn't want it to be anyone else coming down on a 2-on-1." -- Islanders center Mathew Barzal
Need to know
Benn scored his first goal in 25 games since Jan. 12. … New York went 0-for-2 on the power play and is 0-for-22 over its past 10 games. … Lee's goal was the first by an Islanders forward in four games that was not into an empty net.
Canadiens: Host the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday (7 p.m. ET; CITY, SNE, TVAS, WGN, NHL.TV)
Islanders: At the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday (1 p.m. ET; FS-D, MSG+, NHL.TV)
Video: Lee's late goal propels Islanders to 2-1 win