ST. PAUL, Minn. — Reinforcing fundamentals paid off for the New York Islanders.
Ryan Pulock and Matt Martin scored less than 2 minutes apart early in the third period and the Islanders rallied to beat the Minnesota Wild 3-1 Sunday.
Tom Kuhnhackl scored late and Semyon Varlamov stopped 25 shots for New York, which won for the second time in six games.
Suggesting his team may have become a bit complacent after winning 22 of its first 31 games, Islanders coach Barry Trotz ran a back-to-the-basics practice Saturday. The extra work paid off as New York carried the play much of the game, and was strong in the defensive zone. The Islanders have allowed a league-low 97 goals through 37 games.
“I thought guys were pretty dialed in at practice yesterday and just, again, back to what we do best and taking care of our end first and worrying about the offense when you get opportunities,” Martin said. “We’ve been chasing games and then you start to chase offense and give up on the end.”
Of Minnesota’s 26 shots on goal, 14 came in the final two periods.
Ryan Donato’s first-period goal for Minnesota off a scramble in front was the game’s lone tally, before the Islanders broke through in the third.
“Sometimes you’re going through a tough time a little bit and maybe your confidence isn’t really high, to get a goal like that it bounces around and it’s in your net and you’re like, ‘Here we go again,” Trotz said. “We just stayed with the process and played our game. I thought they defended really well, that we were going to have to get a greasy one and we did finally.”
Pulock’s shot from the top of the slot hit Devan Dubnyk, who thought he stopped the puck and a whistle should have been blown, but it trickled across the line as players were shoving in front.
“It would’ve been a quick whistle. That’s the way I looked at it,” said Wild coach Bruce Boudreau. “I couldn’t see goaltender interference because (Jared) Spurgeon pushed him in. And even though the guy hit him in the pads it didn’t move Devan at all.”
Martin, a fourth-line wing, put New York up 2-1 just 97 seconds later with his first goal in 18 games. Leo Komarov poked the puck past defenseman Brad Hunt at the Wild blue line, won the race to the puck in the right circle, and, while falling, sent a backhand across to Martin for a redirect.
Kuhnhackl added an insurance goal — his first tally of the year — with 2:31 to play.
“I think from right off the get-go, first shift, we set the tone. We got on the forecheck, we were aggressive, we kept that up throughout the whole game,” he said.
Minnesota, which has played a league-high 24 road games, began a stretch of 18 of 23 contests at Xcel Energy Center, where it is 10-3-3. The Wild are 13-5-4 overall since starting the season 6-11-1.
“We know what kind of team we can be at home. Hopefully we can move forward after this one,” Donato said.”
Dubnyk finished with 25 saves. He made four on a New York power play late in the second period, and the Wild nearly scored in period’s final seconds but a shot by Hunt clanked off the post. Marcus Foligno hit a post earlier in the period.
New York D Nick Leddy had an assist for his 300th career point. Leddy was Minnesota’s Mr. Hockey in 2009, an award given to the state’s top high school hockey player. … Ryan Suter’s assist on Donato’s goal gave the Wild defenseman nine points in his past nine games. … Wild C Mikko Koivu (lower-body) practiced Saturday, but missed his 12th straight game.
Islanders: At Washington on Tuesday.
Wild: Host Toronto on Tuesday.