GAME: New York Islanders (26-20-5-2) at Montreal Canadiens (27-20-6-2).
TIME: Thursday, 7:30 p.m. EST.
Apparently, eighth place is not good enough for the New York Islanders.
The surging Islanders try to move closer to the seventh-place Montreal
Canadiens when the teams meet in their final game before the All-Star break.
For the second straight game, the Islanders won when trailing after two
periods. Adrian Aucoin's power-play goal 36 seconds into overtime capped a wild
finish and lifted New York to a 5-4 victory over visiting Vancouver on Tuesday.
"We could have slumped our heads down two goals, but we came back," said
New York's Rick DiPietro, who made 21 saves. "This was one of the best games
I've seen in a long time."
Captain Michael Peca and Mariusz Czerkawski each had a goal and two assists
for the Islanders, who had been 0-17-2 this season when trailing after two
periods before rallying for a 4-2 victory over Florida on Saturday.
The Islanders have gained at least a point in nine of their last 10 games
(6-1-2-1) overall to move into eighth in the East, three points behind
Making New York's current run even more impressive is that they are winning
without star center Alexei Yashin and right wing Mark Parrish. Yashin has been
sidelined since Dec. 23 with a lacerated forearm and Parrish has been out since
Jan. 1 with a high ankle sprain.
With two of their top forwards sidelined, the Islanders have received strong
play from Calder Trophy candidate Trent Hunter. The NHL leader among rookies
with 19 goals, Hunter has four goals and seven assists in his last 10 games.
Montreal has taken advantage of a soft portion of its schedule with
back-to-back wins over two of the NHL's worst teams - Chicago and Pittsburgh.
Saku Koivu and Niklas Sundstrom scored second-period goals Tuesday as the
Canadiens handed the hapless Penguins their 11th straight loss, 4-3.
"Even when we took the 2-0 lead, we knew we were in for a fight,"
Montreal's Steve Begin said. "You have to give them lots of credit."
This game features the league's two leading rookie scorers. Montreal's
Michael Ryder tops all rookies with 38 points - two ahead of Hunter.