UNIONDALE, N.Y. - A shot that failed to find the back of the net might have made all the difference for the streaking New York Islanders.
Radek Martinek damaged the mask of San Jose's Evgeni Nabokov and sent the NHL's most durable goalie to the dressing room with a bloodied face in the second period. Stitches closed the wound well enough for him to return for the third, but the Islanders reached him for three goals and a stirring 3-2 comeback victory over the Sharks on Monday.
"I had no idea where the puck went after I got hit," Nabokov said. "It was so painful, I went right down. I saw the shot all the way. ... I didn't have a concussion or anything."
Freddy Meyer capped the surge with 8:41 left after Andy Hilbert and Mike Comrie erased the Sharks' 2-0 lead with goals less than a minute apart.
"Unfortunately, they scored on their first two shots," Nabokov said. "The first one was kind of a weird goal. ... The second goal, I should have had."
The Islanders scored on three of their 12 shots in the third and earned their fourth straight victory, tying their best stretch of the season. New York managed only nine shots through the first 40 minutes after posting a season-high 49 Saturday.
"Whether he was injured or shaken up or not, we had to attack him," Islanders coach Ted Nolan said of Nabokov. "We didn't attack too much in the first two periods and then in the third period, for whatever reason, it just kind of clicked in and we started attacking."
Nolan missed the first period because he was talking with his son, Jordan, a player on the Windsor Spitfires of the Ontario Hockey League, who called following the sudden death of 19-year-old captain Mickey Renaud.
"He was my son's teammate and good friend, and it was tragic," Nolan said. "Sometimes there's a lot more important things to me than a hockey game."
Meyer, who went 73 games without a goal before scoring into an empty net at Toronto last Thursday, beat a goalie for the first time since Nov. 24, 2006. He got a shot from the right circle past Nabokov.
"I was just trying to put it on net," the defenceman said. "Get the monkey off my back? I'm just going to try to keep shooting the puck."
Meyer's two goals this season were both game-winners.
"It was good," he said. "Anytime you beat a goalie, it's always a little sweeter."
New York won this one despite taking only 21 shots. They outshot Atlanta 49-10 in a 4-1 win Saturday.
Marcel Goc and Joe Thornton scored for the Sharks, who have dropped the first two of an eight-game road trip. Before falling to the Rangers on Sunday, San Jose had lost an NHL-low five road games.
Thomas Greiss finished the second period for San Jose only hours after he was recalled from Worcester (AHL). Nabokov has started all but one of the Sharks' 59 games this season, and Greiss played the one Nabokov missed on Jan. 13.
"Nabby is fine," coach Ron Wilson said. "He had a big, deep cut, but he wanted to play. He's earned that right."
Just moments after Thornton gave the Sharks a seemingly safe 2-0 lead 2:14 into the third, Hilbert and Comrie connected 59 seconds apart.
"It seemed like we had the game right there," Thornton said. "Three mistakes cost us, and that was the game. I thought we played pretty good for 50 minutes.
"Guys need to realize that the playoff push started. Every team is good, and we have to go into each game thinking that way."
New York captain Bill Guerin sent a shot on goal that Nabokov blocked with his stick before Hilbert knocked it in at 3:22.
Guerin also assisted on the tying tally. He chipped the puck to Comrie, who raced up ice, deftly pushed the puck between the legs of defenceman Kyle McLaren before beating Nabokov for his 18th goal.
"It's not a move I'm going to try too often," Comrie said. "Once in a while you get lucky."
Thornton scored his 17th when he got to a deflected shot and ripped a drive past Rick DiPietro, who made 28 saves after winning with nine Saturday.
Goc staked the Sharks to a 1-0 lead at 2:35 of the second period.
Until then, the game was dominated by the officials. There were seven penalties called during the first period, and the Sharks were given five power plays after earning only one Sunday - much to the dismay of Wilson, who complained about the lack of calls.
Both teams earned consecutive 5-on-3 power plays for a full two minutes, but the clubs combined for only 12 shots in the period - seven for San Jose.
Notes: Sharks D Douglas Murray received a major penalty for boarding Blake Comeau, and was ejected in the third period. Comeau wasn't seriously injured. ... Islanders D Andy Sutton injured his hamstring and was helped off the ice with 15.9 seconds left. He will be re-evaluated Tuesday. ... San Jose was 0-for-6 on the power play. The Islanders went 0-for-7.