UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- The New York Islanders proved once again Tuesday night that they tend to play up to the level of the competition and the magnitude of the moment -- which was good news heading into one of the biggest games the Islanders have played in recent years.
Radek Martinek's tie-breaking goal 7:56 into the third period Tuesday night gave the Islanders the lead for good in a 6-3 upset win over the Montreal Canadiens at Nassau Coliseum.
Six different players scored for the Islanders (10-11-2) as they improved to 2-0 this season against the Canadiens, who remained in first place in the East despite having their streak of 11 straight games with a point stopped.
The Islanders are 8-9-1 against the current top eight teams in the East and have at least one win against every team in that bunch except the Bruins and Hurricanes.
"Earlier in the year we beat Pittsburgh and New Jersey, so we know we can beat anyone," said Islanders winger Matt Martin, who scored the second of New York's three second period goals. "We just need to be consistent. We seem to get up for the best teams in the league and play well against them, and then games that we feel like we should win, we kind of come out flat."
The Islanders aren't likely to come out flat on Thursday, when they host the rival Rangers for the first time this season in front of what is sure to be a raucous, bipartisan crowd.
There are sure to be playoff implications, as well, after the Rangers moved into eighth place in the East with a 4-2 win over the Flyers on Tuesday. The Islanders are in 10th place, just two points behind the Rangers.
"We're playing our biggest rival, so if you can't get up for those games, I don't know what you're doing in the league," Martin said with a grin. "So we'll be ready."
The Islanders, who improved to 2-2-1 on their seven-game homestand, will also be seeking their first three-game winning streak of the season on Thursday. They have won two in a row five times but have been outscored 18-4 in their previous four attempts to win a third straight game.
The win over the Canadiens should provide a confidence boost as the Islanders pursue that elusive three-game winning streak. New York won despite being outshot 32-24 and managed to regain the momentum after the Canadiens came back from a two-goal deficit to tie the game early in the third period.
Matt Moulson and Michael Grabner also scored in the second period for the Islanders while John Tavares and Colin McDonald added insurance goals in the final 1:07. Goalie Evgeni Nabokov had an outstanding night in goal with 29 saves.
"I think we've proven that we can play with anybody," Nabokov said. "If we play the way we can (for) 60 minutes, I don't think it's going to be easy for any team to play against us."
The Canadiens pulled even thanks to power play goals by P.K. Subban, who scored with 3:11 left in the second, and Brian Gionta who tied it 6:07 into the third.
But Martinek quickly put the Islanders ahead with his first goal of the season, a slap shot that threaded a crowd of players in front of Canadiens goalie Carey Price.
"Bang-bang, (the Canadiens) tie it up," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. "We've been resilient, we've come back, it's a 60-minute hockey game. I thought we tilted the ice after that a little bit and got some chances. 'Nabby' made some big saves when we needed to. It's a character win for our guys."
Tomas Plekanec scored in the first while Price made 18 saves for the Canadiens, whose 11-game point streak was the longest for the franchise during the shootout era.
"(The Islanders) have so many good young players, if you give them opportunities, they're going to take advantage of them," Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said.
NOTES: Islanders defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky missed the game and will also miss Thursday's tilt against the Rangers after he traveled back home to Slovakia due to a family tragedy. Newsday reported the tragedy had nothing to do with Visnovsky's son, who underwent surgery in February. Visnovsky missed the first 10 games of the season after tending to his son. ... In addition to Visnovsky, the Islanders scratched center Keith Aucoin and winger Eric Boulton while the Canadiens scratched center Gabriel Dumont and defenseman Yannick Weber. ... Entering Tuesday, the Islanders were one of just four NHL teams with fewer wins than regulation losses, along with Winnipeg, Buffalo and Florida. ... The Canadiens' previous long point streak in the shootout era was a nine-game run from Feb. 4 through March 6, 2006, during which Montreal went 6-0-3. ... Montreal's five-game road trip marks just one of two times the Canadiens will play more than two consecutive road games this season. The Canadiens conclude the regular season schedule with a three-game road trip to New Jersey, Winnipeg and Toronto.