Hamrlik skated left and faked a shot before passing to Peca, who fought through a check on his way to unleashing a vicious wrist shot past Jose Theodore 4:44 into the third period.
“I knew there was a guy right behind me,” Peca said. “I was concentrating on getting the stick down strong, don’t shoot right away. It was a fortunate break for me.”
Peca tallied his second shorthanded goal of the season after spending most of the game shadowing All-Star center Saku Koivu. Peca’s work helped end Koivu’s five-game point streak, as well as the Canadiens’ five-game unbeaten run (3-0-2).
As Theodore struggled to get up, Yashin skated around the net and had an easy opportunity for a goal, but the puck was rolling and came sideways off his stick. Oleg Kvasha managed to tip it over Theodore’s sprawling body to put New York on the board.
“They were first on the puck,” Theodore said. “That was the difference.”
Mark Parrish added an empty-net goal with a minute left to provide the final margin.
Niklas Sundstrom had given Montreal the lead 5:55 into the game when he scored his 100th career goal.
Sundstrom started the play with a pass from behind the net to defenseman Karl Dykhuis at the right goalpost. Garth Snow could not hang on to Dykhuis’ shot and the rebound came to Joe Juneau. Snow committed himself to the possibility of a shot, but Juneau found Sundstrom at the right post for an easy score.
“It would have been better to get it in a win,” Sundstrom said of his milestone goal. “Sometimes you can’t win ‘em all.”
The goal was only the fourth of the season for Sundstrom, but it was his second in four games since joining the Canadiens from the San Jose Sharks in a trade on January 23.
On the play, Juneau picked up his second assist in his many games and passed up a chance to score his first goal since November 21.
Parrish came close to leveling the score with less than two minutes left in the first period, but his backhand shot from a sharp angle spun unluckily after kissing the inside of the left post.
“Sometimes it works out that way,” Parrish said. “When you miss a good opportunity, you get a cheesy one later on. Sometimes it takes a while to even out, but it seems like they all do.”
Parrish’s empty-netter was his 20th of the season, which leads the team.
The Isles found themselves behind at the first intermission despite holding a 15-6 advantage in shots. New York had a 23-13 margin after two periods and a 31-23 advantage for the game.
“If the game had ended after the second period, I would have been happy with our play tonight,” Islanders coach Peter Laviolette said.
New York moved four games over .500 for the first time this season and leaped over Montreal into seventh place in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
The Islanders knew their place after Laviolette moved a board with the standings from the hallway to the locker room before the game.
“He brought it in here for a reason,” Snow said.
Montreal suffered its first regulation loss in seven games under new coach Claude Julien.