UNIONDALE, N.Y. — The New York Islanders have been struggling to score in the early going this season so their late outburst plus an overtime winner against the defending champions provided a welcome boost.
Defenceman Devon Toews scored at 1:13 of overtime to complete a stunning late-game comeback by the Islanders as they downed the St. Louis Blues 3-2 on Monday. Brock Nelson and Mathew Barzal had knotted the contest with late third-period goals before Toews netted the winner.
"Until the last six minutes of the game, we couldn’t get anything going but we found a break and capitalized on our opportunity," said Barzal, who led the Islanders in points last season and whose tying goal was his first this season. "We were looking for anything to get us in a better mood. We battled right to the end. A great effort."
The Blues seemed to have the game well in hand in the closing minutes before Nelson put the home team on the board with his third goal of the season at 14:29 of the third. Barzal then tied the game at 19:33 off a scramble in front with Islanders netminder Thomas Greiss pulled for an extra attacker. Defenceman Johnny Boychuk, who kept the puck in the zone, had the lone assist.
That set the stage for Toews’ goal — his second of the season — on which Barzal and Nelson had the assists. That sent what had been a mostly silent crowd of 10,355 at Nassau Coliseum into a frenzy as the defending champion Blues skated off toward their locker room. Griess made 21 saves for the win.
"We stayed with it and we got rewarded at the end," Islanders coach Barry Trotz said. "We were playing the Stanley Cup champions. They know how to win. That was really good test for us."
Goals from Brayden Schenn and Vladimir Tarasenko had given the Blues a 2-0 lead.
The Blues opened the scoring at 6:48 of the first when Schenn finished off a stellar passing sequence to extend his goal-scoring streak to five games. Schenn tipped the puck past Greiss for his fifth goal this season. Defenceman Justin Faulk and forward Jaden Schwartz assisted. Schenn is tied with Ryan O’Reilly for the team lead with seven points.
Tarasenko extended the lead with a power-play goal at 5:23 of the third, his first goal of the season. Tarasenko led the Blues in goals each of the past five seasons including 33 goals last year. The Russian forward has at least 30 goals and 30 assists in five straight seasons. Schenn and Vince Dunn had assists on Tarasenko’s goal.
The Islanders outshot the Blues 9-7 in the first but couldn’t muster much of an early attack against the Blues, who started Jordan Binnington in goal for the fifth time in six games this season. Binnington, who led St. Louis to the Stanley Cup last season as a rookie, had 29 saves.
The Blues outshot the Islanders 10-4 in the second.
"Greiss made key saves when they were pounding puck from the point," Trotz added. "That was a hard game for a goaltender to fight through."
The Islanders, coming off last season’s 103-point finish and a trip to the second round of the playoffs, saved all their drama for late in the game. They outshot the Blues 18-6 in the third and had the only shot in overtime.
"We had this win and it’s frustrating," Binnington said. "One goal and they got some momentum off of it. It happens quick. You have to play a full 60 minutes. Hopefully it is a lesson learned that we have to finish teams."
The Islanders have played five of their first six games at home. They will visit Winnipeg, then Columbus later this week before returning to host Arizona on Oct. 24.
Trotz emphasized keeping the right mindset as his team navigates a fresh season after last year’s success. Instead of absorbing another loss at home, the comeback victory could represent a building block as the Islanders improved to 3-3-0 instead of falling to 2-4-0.
"Let’s just win today — win the game, win the week and not look too far head," he said.
The Blues were coming off a 6-3 loss at Montreal on Saturday. They finished their four-game road trip at 2-1-1.
"A couple of bad breaks, that’s how it goes sometimes," Blues coach Craig Berube said.
Forward Oliver Wahlstrom made his NHL debut for the Islanders. The 19-year-old right wing was picked 11th overall in the 2018 draft. He played for Boston College last year before joining AHL Bridgeport in the season. Wahlstrom skated on a line with Derick Brassard and Josh Bailey.
"It was awesome to win and celebrate with these guys," said Wahlstrom, sent out by teammates for several solo laps to start warmups. "I’m a kid working hard and taking it one day at time."
NOTES: The Islanders were without injured forwards Casey Cizikas and Jordan Eberle. … The Islanders scratched forward Matt Martin and defenceman Noah Dobson. … St. Louis scratched forwards Zach Sanford, Robert Thomas and defenceman Robert Bortuzzo. … The teams meet again Feb. 27 in St. Louis. … It was the first trip to Nassau Coliseum for the Blues since December 2014.
Blues: Host Vancouver on Thursday night.
Islanders: at Winnipeg on Thursday night.