It was the sort of night that called for simplicity. For straightforward play on brand-new Nassau Coliseum ice, put down after a weekend of monster truck rallies.
For the bulk of the Islanders, simplicity was out of reach. They were mired in a mess of poor breakouts and fumbled chances against an Oilers team that, despite sitting 29th in the league, looked far fresher in the third period of a tie game Tuesday night.
But simplicity did not elude the Isles' fourth line. Colin McDonald, already with a goal for the second straight game, dove to play a skittering puck between an Oilers forward's legs and right to Casey Cizikas, who turned and swept a shot past Viktor Fasth with 4:37 to play.
Simple, right? The 3-2 Islanders win was their third in four games, a bit of a scare for the first-place Isles but nonetheless the sort of grind-it-out two points that come in handy down the road.
"It was an unconventional win, but still a good one," said Thomas Hickey, who had two assists, including the secondary one on Cizikas' game-winner. "That first game back from a road trip is always tough, for some reason. You need to make it easy on yourself. We had some guys who did that and it's a good lesson for all of us."
McDonald hasn't had the easiest go of things this season, setting some sort of collective bargaining agreement record for most emergency recalls (four) in a seven-day span last week.
He finally got into a game Sunday in Buffalo and scored the opening goal. Tuesday night, again back with his old linemates Cizikas and Matt Martin, McDonald shoveled home a rebound of Martin's shot at 13:20 of the first to tie the score at 1.
"He makes the high-percentage plays. He plays the Islander way," Jack Capuano said of the 30-year-old McDonald, who led the Islanders with nine hits. "He's made a solid impact."
The opposite impact that the Islanders' woeful penalty kill has made the last 11 games. Josh Bailey tipped Hickey's wrist shot home at 11:27 of the second for a 2-1 lead, but with Bailey in the penalty box for coming to John Tavares' aid in a scrum, the Oilers scored an easy power-play goal to tie it.
Jordan Eberle circled the Isles net and found Anton Lander alone in the slot and he scored at 16:34, the Oilers' second power-play goal in three tries. That left the league-worst Isles penalty kill just 16 for its last 29 times short, a 55.1 percent efficiency.
"We're supposed to have a guy exactly where that shot came from," Capuano said.
Headed to the third period tied, the Islanders were caught flat-footed by an Edmonton team that was more energetic than its poor record indicated. The Oilers had the first seven shots of the third period and Eberle hit the post from in tight midway through the period; about the only scoring chance for the Islanders was Cizikas' goal.
Jaroslav Halak made 34 saves for the win as the Isles were outshot 36-28.
"Right now, we're not scoring goals the way we were earlier in the year," Tavares said. "You still have to find ways to get results even when you're not playing as well as you'd like."