(Reuters) - The New York Islanders overcame the loss of starting netminder Evgeni Nabokov in the first period to defeat the Montreal Canadiens 4-3 at Nassau Coliseum on Thursday.
Rick DiPietro stepped in for Nabokov, who injured his groin and will be evaluated by team doctors on Friday, and made 24 saves as the Islanders snapped a four-games losing streak.
Matt Moulson's goal late in the second period, the Isles' fourth, proved crucial as it took the wind out of Montreal's sails just as the Canadiens looked set to tie the game.
New York had built a 3-0 lead on second period goals from PA Parenteau, Jay Pandolfo and Mark Streit, but found themselves on the back foot as the Canadiens hit back with goals from Max Pacioretty and Erik Cole.
"That's a huge bounce-back goal," Islanders center Josh Bailey told reporters. "It took the heat off a little bit."
Moulson's goal, a wrist shot that deflected off Montreal defenseman P.K. Subban's stick, came just 37 seconds after Cole had drawn the Canadiens within one.
"It was good for the team and our coaching staff to see how we were going to react," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. "We got ourselves in a situation. I thought defensively in the neutral zone as the game went on we were stronger."
Brian Gionta again narrowed the Islanders' lead to one with a tap-in from the side of the net on a power play with less than five minutes remaining in the third period, but the Habs could not find an equalizer.
"When you let up for long stretches like we did in the second, and when you come out flatfooted like we did in the third, it's tough to come back," said Pacioretty. "We almost came back, but it shows you have to play a full 60 minutes."
Veteran Canadiens defenseman Hal Gill has missed the past three games due to illness and has been admitted to hospital in Montreal with a virus. (Reporting by Mike Mouat in Windsor, Ontario; Editing by Peter Rutherford)