UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Score one for the NHL's sole Danish player.
"I couldn't believe it when it went in," said Nielsen, the first NHL player from Denmark. "It'll be big in Denmark."
With the win, the Islanders moved into a tie for seventh place in the Eastern Conference playoff race with the Canadiens at 70 points. Carolina started the day one point behind Montreal and plays at Atlanta tonight.
"We didn't play bad," Montreal coach Guy Carbonneau said. "Our skating was good, but our passing was what was bad. We couldn't sustain any offense in the first two periods."
The Islanders scored first 2:43 into the game when Tambellini tapped in Nielsen's cross-crease pass.
Souray tied the game for Montreal on a two-man advantage. His rising slap shot from the right point caught the upper right corner at 13:54 in the first period.
Souray has 21 goals, 15 on power plays. He's three power-play goals away from tying the league record of 18 by a defenseman in a season, shared by Adrian Aucoin and Denis Potvin.
Later in the first period Blake put the Islanders up 2-1 with his career-best 29th goal. He moved down the right side and beat Halak with a backhander to the far corner at 15:58.
"He made a good shot," Halak said. "I was a little out of position."
Carbonneau said that after the goal, Halak's play was much better.
"I'm sure he'd like to have that second one back," Carbonneau said. "But after that goal, he played really well for us."
Halak made a wonderful glove save eight minutes into the second period to keep the game close. He went low to rob Arron Asham's right circle wrist shot.
Nielsen flipped Richard Park's cross-crease pass over Halak at the 10:52 of the second period.
"We got away from our game plan a bit in the first two periods," Montreal forward Michael Ryder said. "We came back well in the third, and battled to the end, but we just came up a little short."
Long Island native Higgins cut the gap to 3-2 with his 17th goal of the season at 3:50 of the final period. He tipped Mark Streit's high-slot slapper past DiPietro.
"It was nice to get a goal here," Higgins said, "but we could have used the two points a little bit more."
Montreal had a golden opportunity to tie the game at 8:15, but defenseman Marc-Andre Bergeron, standing in the crease, blocked a shot with DiPietro down and out of the net.
"I just moved to the front of the net when I saw Ricky down," Bergeron said. "I prayed a lot, and it worked out."
DiPietro was relieved as well.
"Marc made a real heads-up play," DiPietro said, "and he saved the game."
|Frans Nielsen, a native of Denmark, is genuinely happy after scoring his first NHL goal. (AP)|
|NY Islanders (31-23-8) «||2||1||0||3|
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|02:43||Jeff Tambellini (2), Snap Shot - Assists: Frans Nielsen, Richard Park|
|13:54||Power Play - Sheldon Souray (22), Slap Shot - Assists: Andrei Markov, Saku Koivu|
|15:58||Jason Blake (29), Backhand Shot - Assists: Viktor Kozlov, Marc-Andre Bergeron|
|10:52||Frans Nielsen, Wrist Shot - Assist: Richard Park|
|03:50||Christopher Higgins (17), Wrist Shot - Assists: Mark Streit, Saku Koivu|
|09:12||Witt: Tripping - 2 min.|
|12:49||Hill: Holding - 2 min.|
|13:16||Witt: Delay of Game - 2 min.|
|16:24||Markov: Hooking - 2 min.|
|02:48||Simon: Roughing - 2 min.|
|02:48||Souray: Roughing - 2 min.|
|07:56||Koivu: Hooking - 2 min.|
|04:08||Dandenault: Interference with goal tender. - 2 min.|
|SHOTS ON GOAL|
|Attendance - 16234|
|Referees - Greg Kimmerly, Dan Marouelli|
|Linesmen - Pierre Champoux, Dan Schachte|