UNIONDALE, NY— Brendan Witt scored just three goals in his first 218 games as an Islander.
But the defenseman nearly matched that production in one period, netting his first career two-goal game in leading the Isles to a come-from-behind 3-1 win over Edmonton Monday night at Nassau Coliseum.
Witt entered the game having not scored in 92 games before finding the net twice in the second period as the Islanders (5-4-5) won a season-high fourth straight game to move above .500 for the first time this season. Witt even out-scored rookie prodigy John Tavares, who added his fifth goal to
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start a string of three unanswered Islander scores.
“We want to remind ourselves [that] we can’t get away with what made us successful,” Witt said. “We’re a hard-working hockey team; hard forechecking and when we don’t do those things every night, we’re not going to have success.”
The Islanders kept up the pressure, logging eight more hits than Edmonton, including nine in the scoreless third period to protect the lead.
Dwayne Roloson, who played in Edmonton the previous four years, shutdown his former team in stopping 22 of 23 shots. The defense supported him in front, limiting the Oilers to just six shots in the third period. The Islanders drew four power play chances and gave up zero.
“We’ve learned from our mistakes,” said Doug Weight, who assisted on two goals. “I feel like our eyes are on the ball right now. I’m really impressed with how we’re playing through this run.”
The Islanders fell behind 1-0 on a goal that bounced off a defender in the first. Tavares finished a one-timer to tie it up heading into the opening intermission before Witt beat Oilers’ goalie Nikolai Khabibulin twice on wrist shots to send Edmonton (7-7-1) to its fifth loss in the last six games.
“That guy, it will be another 800 games before he gets another goal,” Oilers coach Pat Quinn said regarding Witt’s outburst. “But that’s all right. He did a simple thing and put it back to the net. He was doing his job right.
“Our guys, we get out of the way of wrist shots now. We don’t even get in the path for those. I don’t understand that but we have to fix it.”
It didn’t take Witt 800 games to score again. It just seemed that long for the 34-year-old, who now has 25 career goals in 14 NHL seasons. Witt’s career-best effort helped the Islanders erase a winless six-game season opening stretch (0-3-3) and helped the Isles pick up points for the seventh time in the past eight games (5-1-2).
Witt had a few chances to go for the hat trick. Khabibulin (34 saves) gloves his left-point shot was gloved almost five minutes into the third. Witt lofted the puck in the neutral zone against an empty net before the attempt slid just wide with 40 seconds left.
“I actually thought it would come sooner, knowing we want our defense to get up in the play and make good decisions,” Islanders coach Scott Gordon said. “He’s had a lot of shot opportunities from the blue line this year and it was good to see a couple find the back of the net.”
Bad bounces off defenders plagued the Islanders in early season losses. That problem resurfaced as Edmonton benefitted from a fortuitous bounce on Ethan Moreau’s opening goal 11:02 in.
Moreau spun behind the Islanders’ net before fire a centering pass that banked off defenseman Radek Martinek’s leg and in for his season’s second tally.
Tavares evened the score just 3:49 later, netting his fifth goal off Matt Moulson’s centering pass.
Weight drew two Edmonton defenders behind the Oilers net, creating space after the three collided and fell to the ice. Moulson collected the puck and sent a centering pass to Tavares, who converted the one-timer in the slot before Sam Gagner could skate over to offer resistance.
Witt broke the tie 2:32 into the second after he sent a slow-moving left circle wrist shot past Khabibulin’s glove. That marked Witt’s first goal since Jan. 22, 2008. Witt extended the lead to 3-1 almost nine minutes later with another goal from the blue line
“Obviously Khabibulin wants the first one I got on him back. He really wasn’t ready for it,” Witt said “That’s what happens when you get pucks to the net. The second one, we had good movement. Doug fed it and I just tried to
get it on net and fortunately it went in”
The Islanders won four straight for the first time since Feb. 3, when the club capped a four-game streak with a victory over Tampa Bay.