The Islanders shrugged off their ranking as the NHL's lowest-scoring offense by surging to two three-goal leads. But Atlanta battled back for three straight goals in regulation before Jeff Tambellini and Frans Nielsen scored shootout goals to lift New York to a 6-5 victory Saturday night.
"It shows a lot about our character," Islanders forward Josh Bailey said. "We managed to bounce back and find a way to win. It's tough to keep that pressure and keep going but we were able to get the two points."
Atlanta lost for the eighth straight time, but picked up points for a second straight night following an overtime loss to Buffalo.
Slava Kozlov scored in the shootout for Atlanta, but Ilya Kovalchuk and Rich Peverley shot wide against Dwayne Roloson to hand New York its third win in five games.
Tambellini scored with a head-on wrist shot against Johan Hedberg, and Nielsen connected on a backhander.
"We've been snake-bit the last few weeks and it was no different tonight," Hedberg said. "It's been hurting us with lapses in games but we showed a lot of character in coming back."
Nielsen assisted on two goals and improved to 4 for 6 in shootout attempts this season, a ratio he said is the reason coach Scott Gordon selected him ahead of double-digit goal scorers John Tavares and Matt Moulson.
"As long as I score, he's going to let me shoot," Nielsen said. "It's fun."
Moulson and Jon Sim scored 2:51 apart in the opening period, and Richard Park, Trent Hunter and Bailey added goals to help New York earn points for the fifth time in six games.
Moulson's opening rebound goal tied him with Tavares for the team-lead with 16 and ended a nine-game goal drought. Moulson finished at plus-3, but said New York needs to sustain defense pressure after establishing leads.
"We just have to tightened it up and play smarter in our own zone," he said.
Atlanta twice was down by three goals before leading scorer Kovalchuk blasted a left point shot for a power-play goal 11:23 into the third to tie it at 5. Kovalchuk's 25th goal was Atlanta's third straight goal and capped a four-point night.
Kovalchuk was held without a shot for almost the first 52 minutes before his lone attempt found the net. The 26-year-old winger is just five goals away from his seventh consecutive 30-goal season.
"We found some shortcuts to take and before you know it, it's in the back of your net," Gordon said. "Kovalchuk is a guy who can get the puck on his stick anytime and be a shot threat. He's got a hard shot, he's fast and great at protecting the puck.
"When you have a guy like that, he's going to keep his team in the game every night. We had a couple of shifts where we took the foot off the pedal and that was enough for them to get their opportunities."
Maxim Afinogenov scored twice in a six-goal second period that saw four Atlanta goals. Nik Antropov and Peverley also scored.
"We're on a winless streak here but we found a way to get a point here and maybe that's the difference at the end of the season," Peverley said. "We just started to take it to them and shoot and when that happens, they're going to back off. That was the difference."
Hedberg made 31 saves for the Thrashers, while Roloson finished with 22 saves.
Gordon said he didn't consider pulling Roloson. The 40-year-old goalie improved to 15-7-6 as the Islanders scored just four or more regulation goals for the fourth time in his 28 starts.
"It's nice," Roloson said. "That's what makes us a team. Everyone sticks up for one another."
While Atlanta took advantage of the power play, the Islanders finished 0 for 5 to drop to 2 for 45 in the past 11 games. New York failed to generate a single shot on goal when Blake Comeau drew Christoph Schubert's high-sticking penalty 3:40 into overtime.
Moulson has scored in all three of New York's games against Atlanta, tallying five goals. ... The Islanders allowed four goals in a period for the first time since Nov. 28 at New Jersey. ... Atlanta will conclude its seven-game trip Tuesday night in Pittsburgh. The Thrashers' last regulation road victory was Nov. 27.