NEW YORK -- That sound you heard Tuesday at Barclays Center was the New York Islanders breathing a collective sigh of relief.
In need of points to secure a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Islanders overcame a sluggish start when Anders Lee scored 12:08 into the third period before Kyle Okposo got the only goal in the shootout for a 2-1 win against the Carolina Hurricanes.
Thomas Greiss made 26 saves for New York (41-25-9), which holds the first wild card into the playoffs from the Eastern Conference. The Islanders moved four points ahead of the Philadelphia Flyers, who were idle Tuesday, and the Detroit Red Wings, who lost 4-3 in regulation at the Montreal Canadiens. They have one game in hand on Philadelphia and two on Detroit.
New York will host the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday.
"It's a big win for us," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. "We need points in the games that we play to try to get to the dance and where we want to go."
Video: CAR@NYI: Ryan takes advantage to open the scoring
The Islanders had six shots on goal in the first period and fell behind when Derek Ryan, who was recalled from Charlotte of the American Hockey League earlier in the day, scored with 1:29 left in the second to give Carolina a 1-0 lead.
But Lee, one of several players the Islanders need to provide more offense during the final two weeks of the regular season, scored a power-play goal with 7:52 remaining in the third period. After Hurricanes defenseman Brett Pesce was whistled for goalie interference, Carolina's second minor penalty in a span of 2:47, Lee parked himself in front of the net and redirected John Tavares' shot from just inside the blue line past goalie Cam Ward to make it 1-1. It was Lee's 13th goal of the season and first since March 8.
More important, it helped the Islanders secure the first of two points they desperately needed. They knew this was a game they couldn't let slip away.
"I'm glad we don't have to worry about that," Lee said. "But yeah, for sure [this would have been tough to overcome]. We carry momentum into Thursday night, and I'm thankful we don't have to worry about what could have been and just move forward with the two points."
Video: CAR@NYI: Lee deflects puck past Ward to tie it
Ward made 30 saves for the Hurricanes (33-28-16), who host the New York Rangers on Thursday.
"He was excellent," Carolina coach Bill Peters said of his goaltender. "The only one [that] beat him was a screened shot.
"I thought we played pretty well. I didn't mind us at all. [I think the] game changed on the back-to-back [third-period] power plays."
Okposo opened the shootout by deking Ward before sliding the puck into the open right side. Ryan hit the post on Carolina's first attempt, and Greiss stopped Jaccob Slavin and Joakim Nordstrom for the win.
It was the type of response the Islanders needed from Greiss, who had lost his previous four starts and was 1-5-1 in his past seven.
"It's always nice," said Greiss, who got his 20th win of the season. "It's been a while and I got the monkey off my back. Hopefully we can keep it going now."
Video: CAR@NYI: Greiss stops Nordstrom to win game in SO
Ryan got his second goal in four NHL games at 18:31 of the second period. With the teams at even strength, Nathan Gerbe stripped Islanders forward Josh Bailey of the puck in New York's zone and fed Ryan, who beat Greiss with a wrist shot from the right circle.
"It's always frustrating when you lose," Ryan said. "We got in trouble in the third. Credit to them; they kept coming."
Ward extended the game with 1:15 remaining in overtime when he robbed Tavares on a wrist shot from point-blank range. But thanks to Okposo and Greiss in the shootout, the Islanders still managed to escape with the win.
"It would have been a rocky [loss]," said Islanders center Frans Nielsen, who played his 600th NHL game, all with the Islanders. "But we really had to battle for it. They played hard. We didn't get anything easy out there; we had to work for every inch we got. It would have been a tough loss, but I liked the way we never panicked, we stayed with it and we kept going. We finally got the win.
"For sure, it wasn't pretty. But we got it done."
Video: Islanders edge Hurricanes in shootout, 2-1