Islanders trip up Wild
UNIONDALE, N.Y. (AP) -- Blake Comeau scored two goals, Al Montoya made 33 saves in non-taxing fashion, and the New York Islanders beat the sluggish Minnesota Wild 4-1 on Wednesday night.
Comeau, who had gone seven games without scoring, gave the Islanders a 1-0 lead in the first period and a 3-0 edge in the second. Kyle Okposo and Andrew MacDonald added goals as New York dealt the playoff-hopeful Wild a serious blow.
Niklas Backstrom lasted only until 41 seconds into the second period. He was yanked in favor of Jose Theodore after giving up three goals on 19 shots. Theodore cleaned up for the Wild, outshot 41-34.
John Madden spoiled Montoya's shutout bid with 8:27 left. Montoya was briefly shaken with 1:02 left when he was struck near the shoulder by Marek Zidlicky's hard drive, but stayed in.
The Wild, who will complete their two-game, New York trip with a game at the Rangers on Thursday, began the night 10th in the Western Conference -- two points behind a cluster of teams holding playoff positions.
The Islanders jumped all over the Wild in the first period, showing no ill effects of their gut-wrenching 2-1 overtime loss at Washington on Tuesday. Only 7,098 were in attendance to see New York snap a four-game losing streak (0-2-2).
After Minnesota controlled play for a shift in the New York end, the momentum turned when Wild defenseman Nick Schultz went off for hooking. The Islanders made it pay off when Comeau scored with 3 seconds left in the advantage.
Comeau finished a crisp tic-tac-toe play started by Josh Bailey on the goal line. Bailey moved the puck to the slot to Frans Nielsen, who quickly sent between the circles to Comeau for a one-timer that made it 1-0 at 10:31.
Okposo showed a little flash in doubling New York's lead. The Minnesota native, facing the Wild for the fourth time in his four NHL seasons, got to a flubbed shot by Michael Grabner. With his back to the net, Okposo slid a backhander between his legs that found its way underneath Backstrom with 1:23 left in the first.
The Islanders held a 17-10 shots advantage in the period, not including John Tavares' drive that hit the right post behind Backstrom just over a minute in. Tavares also hit the crossbar in the second, while the teams skated 4-on-4.
New York ended Backstrom's night when Comeau netted his second of the game 41 seconds into the second. Matt Martin fired an innocent looking drive that hit Backstrom's glove and bounded into the slot. Comeau cleaned up the rebound and sent Backstrom to the bench.
Theodore restored some calm, but the Islanders connected on the power play again with 3:55 left in the period on MacDonald's slap shot from above the left circle.
The only downside for New York was the ejection of enforcer Trevor Gillies for his hit from behind on Cal Clutterbuck in response to Clutterbuck's hard hit on Justin DiBenedetto that drew a boarding penalty.
NOTES: Backstrom has given up at least three goals in three straight outings after allowing one in each of the previous three. ... Minnesota had won five straight in the series. ... The Wild entered with the NHL's most effective penalty-killing unit since Dec. 31 -- turning aside 89.8 percent before Comeau's goal. Minnesota had allowed only one goal in its previous 24 short-handed situations. ... Okposo's goal was his first point against the Wild. He also assisted on MacDonald's goal. ... Grabner was chosen as NHL rookie of the month after posting 10 goals and six assists in February.