There were moments in Thursday night's game when the Islanders didn't exactly seem focused on winning.
Such as when Ryan Strome appeared to have the clinching empty-net goal on his stick with 80 seconds left, cruising in alone toward the Predators' yawning cage, only to carry the puck deep into the Nashville zone and lose it to a couple of back-checkers.
It easily could have been that kind of night, one in which the Islanders started slowly and ended pretty much the same way. But faced with a barrage of Predators shots from all over the ice and a two-goal hole in the second period, the Islanders simply worked their way out of the deficit, into the lead and on to a very unattractive but welcome 4-3 win over previously undefeated Nashville at Barclays Center.
"To put it frankly, we didn't play that well," said Kyle Okposo, who beat Pekka Rinne on a partial breakaway during four-on-four play at 11:56 of the second period to pull the Isles even. "When we were able to grind it out, we found a way to win against a good team."
The Predators came in 3-0-0 and had allowed only two goals in the three victories. Peter Laviolette had his team ready to slap as many pucks on Thomas Greiss (44 saves) as possible. Nashville held a 17-7 shot edge after a period, though the only goal the Islanders surrendered was when their own defenseman, Marek Zidlicky, swiped a loose puck off the post and in at 2:14 of the first.
Filip Forsberg jammed home another puck that was bouncing around Greiss' crease at 4:22 of the second, and it seemed the Predators' strategy to fire pucks and follow up with crashing and banging was going to take them to an easy win.
But John Tavares took his team into the Nashville zone off the ensuing faceoff, got the puck off Predators captain Shea Weber, played give-and- go with Strome and found Anders Lee in the right spot for a redirection only 40 seconds after Nashville's goal.
In the third, more good work below the hash marks produced two more Isles goals.
"When you shoot pucks, you get second opportunities," said Nikolay Kulemin, who got one of those when Brock Nelson spun a shot off the end boards that caromed out to him and Kulemin slid the puck under Rinne at 6:42 of the third. "A lot of times you shoot it, you get it back because the defense has to turn and try to get it."
After a failed power play later in the third, Travis Hamonic kept a puck in at the left point and sent a shot into a crowd in the slot. Tavares came away with it and flipped it over Rinne for the captain's third goal in as many Barclays Center games this season.
"These aren't games we hope to win, we expect to win," Tavares said. "It's good to overcome in a game we didn't have our best."
James Neal's deflection past Greiss cut it to 4-3 with 5:24 to play -- Jack Capuano challenged the goal, saying Mike Fisher impeded Greiss, but the officials let it stand -- and the Islanders were on the defensive once again.
But Greiss and his teammates hung in, giving the Isles two straight victories against tough Western Conference opponents.
"We found a way," Capuano said. "That's what you have to do."