UNIONDALE, NY— Music blared through the Islanders dressing room after a slew of negative streaks came to an end on the Nassau Coliseum ice.
Martin Biron made 24 saves in his first NHL game since Dec. 21 while struggling rookie John Tavares added the game-winning goal in the fourth round of a shootout to lift the Islanders to a 4-3 win over Nashville on Tuesday night.
The Islanders snapped a season-high seven-game losing skid and cracked the three-goal threshold for the first time in nine games. Mark Streit’s right-point goal skipped past Pekka Rinne with 11.4 seconds left, setting up goals from Frans Nielsen and Tavares in the one-on-one session for the Isles first victory since Jan. 21.
Tavares, who has just two goals and five assists in his last 28 games, beat Rinne high-stick side for the winning strike and send the Isles into its game against the defending-champion Penguins on Wednesday with momentum.
“It’s a little bit off our shoulders,” Tavares said. “Things haven’t been going our way. It’s nice to feel good again. We have a tough test tomorrow but we’re up for it.”
Rob Schremp logged two assists to help revive a sputtering offense. Matt Martin also came through with a two-point night in his NHL debut, picking assists on both power play goals.
The 20-year-old left-handed shot set up Streit’s clutch goal in the waning seconds and was rewarded after the contest with the team’s plastic hard hat—given to the hardest working player after an Islanders victory.
“The goal was a blur,” Martin said. “I saw Streit wide open and he made a great shot.
“I was pumped up. We had a feeling we would win after that. I think the guys started to get their confidence back.”
Streit’s eighth goal ignited a celebration on the Islanders bench and helped Biron post his first NHL win since Nov. 13. The 11-year veteran stopped Steve Sullivan, David Legwand and Patric Hornqvist. Martin Erat scored Nashville’s only shootout goal when Biron prematurely lunged on a poke-check attempt and fell.
“We were obviously very happy for Marty,” Islanders coach Scott Gordon said. “I don’t think you could ask for a better teammate.”
All three non-shootout Islanders goals came from defensemen as Streit, Freddy Meyer and Bruno Gervais all tallied scores.
Gervais scored during a two-man advantage with 57 seconds left in the second period, tying the score at 2 right before intermission.
Gervais slammed in a rebound off Schremp’s shot ending a 0-for-24 streak on the power play in marking the club’s first power play goal since Jan. 26 against Washington.
But Nashville responded to its own two-man advantage when Steve Sullivan’s left circle laser beat Biron 4:12 into the third for a 3-2 Nashville lead. Erat’s crisp pass on Sullivan’s stick set up the winger’s 12th goal while Sean Bergenheim (high-sticking) and Blake Comeau (cross-checking) watched from the Islanders penalty box.
Erat gave the Islanders life late when he boarded Andrew MacDonald with 46 seconds left, setting up a 6-on-4 Islanders advantage after Biron was pulled for the extra attacker.
Biron is a three-man logjam with Rick DiPietro and Dwayne Roloson and could be headed out with the league’s trade deadline approaching in March.
“It’s been a tough situation,” Biron said. “We’re trying to do the best for each other and giving each chance to get some shots in practice.”
Biron, who was recalled from AHL Bridgeport, played in his first NHL game since Dec. 21. The 32-year-old veteran said the conditioning stint in the minor leagues was beneficial despite his 11 years of big league experience. The game could also be a showcase for Islanders general manager Garth Snow.
“My first practice in Bridgeport, an hour plus in net, I was dead tired afterwards. I haven’t seen that for a month,” Biron said. “With three goalies, you have to make the best out of it.”
“I knew the situation coming in and I know most likely I’ll be a chip for Garth to acquire something and give me a chance to continue my season.”
Meyer’s first goal since Jan. 21opened the scoring 5:10 into the period. Nashville’s previous breakdowns that allowed open shots for Bergenheim and Andy Sutton finally resulted in a score when Schremp drew the attention of two defenders near the sideboards.
Schremp fed a pass to an open Meyer after Erat overcommitted to stop the pass. The defenseman blasted a shot from the high slot for his second goal in 42 games. The offensive output sets up an important game with Sidney Crosby and the Penguins.
“Every game is important if we want to believe we have a chance to make the playoffs,” Gordon said. “The two points tonight will have more significance if we put together an effort that allows us to win the game tomorrow.”
by scoring twice in a 3:16 span. Frans Nielsen’s desperation clear in the Islanders crease off
Biron’s rebound went right to Cal O’Reilly’s stick blade, who buried the shot for his first goal this season.
Just minutes later, Joel Ward took advantage of a poorly executed Islanders line change to complete his breakaway goal to put the Predators ahead 2-1 heading into second intermission. Sutton was late getting over and smashed his stick over the Islanders crossbar as Ward celebrated his 12th goal at 13:51.