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Gonchar seals late comeback for Senators over Islanders

The SportsXchange

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Winning while undermanned is nothing new for the Ottawa Senators. Unfortunately for the New York Islanders, neither is squandering multi-goal leads and losing.

Sergei Gonchar's goal with exactly one minute left Tuesday night capped a stunning third-period comeback for the Senators, who scored four goals in the final 20 minutes to beat the Islanders 5-3 at Nassau Coliseum.

The two-goal comeback was the second in the last three games for the Senators (16-8-6), who bounced back from a 2-0 first period deficit to beat the Sabres, 4-3, on Saturday night.

"It's leadership, it's character," Senators coach Paul MacLean said. "The ability to comeback is not easy to do in this league and we find a way to do it. Part of the identity of our team is to play 60, 65 minutes and play them hard. Tonight, that part of our identity certainly came through."

This win was particularly gratifying for the injury-wracked Senators, who won just hours after losing yet another player for an extended period of time. Milan Michalek, who missed 14 of the previous 16 games, underwent surgery to remove bone chips from his right knee Tuesday as he joined a who's who of injured Senators that includes Craig Anderson (sprained right ankle), Jared Cowen (hip surgery), Erik Karlsson (Achilles tendon) and Jason Spezza (back surgery).

The Senators may have added yet another player to that list against the Islanders when defenseman Marc Methot exited with a lower body injury after playing less than nine minutes. MacLean didn't have an estimate on how long Methot would be out.

"We're not going to use it for an excuse," Senators defenseman Chris Phillips said of the injuries. "We're sticking together, we're finding ways to get points, to win games, and that's what it's all about."

Guillaume Latendressse added an empty netter in the final 10 seconds for the Senators, who pulled even earlier in the period when Jakob Silfverberg and Zack Smith scored 68 seconds apart.

"The game wasn't over (and) we had 20 minutes to prove it like we did in Buffalo," said goalie Ben Bishop, who made 26 saves. "It was the same mentality. I don't think there's one guy in here that's going to quit. As you can see tonight, it's never over until the end."

The Islanders know that all too well yet continue to make things more difficult for themselves by squandering multi-goal leads. The Islanders fell to 3-3 this season in games in which they've surrendered leads of at least two goals.

Against the Panthers on Sunday, the Islanders blew a three-goal third period lead in a span of just 1:43 before pulling out a 4-3 win.

The loss Tuesday could be a crushing one for the Islanders (13-13-3), who could have moved within one point of eighth place in the East with a win. Instead, the Islanders remained in 10th place, three points behind the Devils and Rangers.

"It's a tough one, we've got to find a way to win that hockey game," Islanders winger Kyle Okposo said. "That's on us. We've got to come out in the third period and play [better]. And we just didn't. We've got to try and forget about that one and move forward, but learn from it too."

The Islanders appeared headed for an easy win when Bailey and Visnovsky scored in the second, but the Islanders were again haunted by their inability to close as the Senators quickly tied the score in the third.

The Senators cut the gap in half 1:07 into the third when Patrick Wiercioch intercepted a clearing pass by Radek Martinek and fired a scorching slap shot from the blue line. The puck deflected off the stick of Silfverberg and over the left shoulder of Evgeni Nabokov (18 saves).

Ottawa tied it off a faceoff a mere 1:08 later when Smith turned, whirled and fired the puck past Nabokov.

The Islanders had a potential go-ahead goal waved off following a review with 12:38 to play. Keith Aucoin appeared to beat Bishop in a flurry in front of the Senators' net, but replay showed he kicked the puck into the net.

The Islanders fell to 5-9-2 at the Coliseum -- by far the worst home record of any playoff contender -- as their streak of five straight home games in which they recorded at least one point came to an end.

Matt Kassian also scored for the Senators (16-8-6) while Aucoin scored in the first for the Islanders.

NOTES: The Islanders scratched defenseman Joe Finley, while the Senators scratched winger Kaspars Daugavins. ... The Islanders were one of three NHL teams to enter the night averaging less than one point per home game. The other two, the Sabres (5-6-2 at home) and the Panthers (4-8-5 at home), began Tuesday with two of the three lowest point totals in the NHL. ... Islanders winger Michael Grabner didn't come off injured reserve Tuesday, the first date he was eligible to do so. Grabner has missed the past three games with a shoulder injury. ... The Senators' streak of 11 straight one-goal games was one shy of the NHL record set by the Blackhawks during the 1997-98 season. ... The Senators and Islanders split the two games this season at Nassau Coliseum. The Senators have been swept at Nassau Coliseum just twice in their 20 NHL seasons.
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