NEW YORK — In the span of about an hour Tuesday, a disappointing evening for the New York Islanders turned fruitful. Such is life in the thick of the Eastern Conference wild-card race.
Kyle Okposo scored the only goal of the shootout as the Islanders continued to solidify their playoff standing with a come-from-behind 2-1 win over the Carolina Hurricanes at Barclays Center.
“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.”
With their second overtime or shootout victory over the Hurricanes in as many games, the Islanders (41-25-9) moved four points ahead of the Philadelphia Flyers and the Detroit Red Wings, who are tied for the final wild-card spot. The Flyers are technically ahead of the Red Wings because they have two games in hand.
Detroit fell to the Montreal Canadiens 4-3 Tuesday.
In addition, the Islanders moved three points ahead of the Boston Bruins — who are a point ahead of the Red Wings in the race for third place in the Atlantic Division — by virtue of the Bruins’ 2-1 loss to the New Jersey Devils.
“It’s going to go right down to the wire — we knew that,” Capuano said. “It’s going to take quite a few wins and quite a few points just to get to the postseason.”
The Islanders looked as if they might not be worthy of a chance to dance — and might not get any breaks from their fellow wild-card contenders — during a meandering first two periods in which they generated just 17 shots and fell behind on a goal by Hurricanes rookie Derek Ryan with 1:29 left in the second. Ryan was recalled from Charlotte of the AHL earlier in the day.
Meanwhile, the Red Wings carried a lead into the third period against the Canadiens while the Bruins and Devils were tied 1-1 after two.
The Islanders came out with a renewed sense of urgency in the third period and recorded eight of the first nine shots of the period. Defenseman Nick Leddy shot just wide of the net on a breakaway seconds before Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward turned back a shot by Josh Bailey.
“Maybe a little bit tentative in the first couple periods,” Okposo said, “but we just took it to them. I thought they tried to protect the lead, sit back a little. We were able to get some momentum that way.”
The Islanders finally tied it when center Anders Lee redirected a shot by John Tavares for a power-play goal with 7:52 remaining in the third. The power play was generated 62 seconds earlier, when Hurricanes defenseman Brett Pesce was whistled for goaltender interference after he barreled into Thomas Greiss.
“I know I was relieved,” Lee said. “I think it brought us a little bit of momentum there to finish off the period and (get) into overtime. Anytime you get something tied up late, it’s always a big relief and momentum swing.”
The Hurricanes outshot the Islanders 4-2 in the overtime before Okposo successfully deked Ward and tucked a shot into the right corner of the net to open the shootout.
Greiss, who recorded 26 saves in regulation and overtime, made Okposo’s goal stand up by turning back all three shots he faced in the shootout.
“We don’t have to think about what could have been,” Lee said. “Just move forward with the two points.”
The Hurricanes were left to wonder what could have been after their NHL-high 16th loss in an overtime or shootout. Carolina (33-28-16) is all but assured of missing the playoffs for the seventh straight season and the ninth time in 10 years but would be leading the race for the second wild card if it won half the games it lost in overtime.
“It’s always frustrating when you lose,” Ryan said. “We got in trouble in the third. Credit to them, they kept coming.”
Ward made 30 saves in regulation and overtime.
“He was excellent,” Carolina coach Bill Peters said. “The only one (that) beat him was a screened shot.”
NOTES: The Islanders scratched C Mikhail Grabovski (concussion), G Jaroslav Halak (lower-body injury), D Marek Zidlicky (upper body), RW Steve Bernier, LW Eric Boulton and D Ryan Pulock. … Islanders C Frans Nielsen drew the start in his 600th career game. Nielsen, a career-long Islander, is the 13th player in franchise history to play at least 600 games. … The Islanders signed C Kyle Schempp, their sixth-round selection in the 2014 draft, to a two-year, entry-level contract. Schempp played three seasons at Ferris State University. … The Hurricanes scratched LW Philip Di Giuseppe (upper body), C Riley Nash (upper body), C Andrej Nestrasil (fractured vertebra) and D Ryan Murphy. … Hurricanes C Derek Ryan scored his first NHL goal on March 1 against the New Jersey Devils.