NEW YORK – Mobbed at center ice after his first NHL win, Jean-Francois Berube was understandably all smiles after the game. So were his teammates.
Thanks to Brock Nelson's team-leading 20th goal that broke a tie late in the second period and Berube's 40 saves, the New York Islanders beat the Minnesota Wild 5-3 Tuesday night.
"It's always better when you get a couple of shots quick," Berube said. "I wasn't too nervous. We blocked shots and we communicated."
Mikhail Grabovski and John Tavares each had a goal and an assist, and Anders Lee and Frans Nielsen also scored for the Islanders who moved within a point of the second-place Rangers in the Metropolitan Division.
Charlie Coyle, Jason Pominville and Nino Niederreiter had the goals for the Wild, who have lost eight of their last nine (1-7-1). Devan Dubnyk gave up five goals on 30 shots, and Darcy Kuemper stopped all eight shots he faced.
After the Islanders took a 2-1 lead on goals by Grabovski and Lee early in the second, Pominville tied it with 1:34 left in the period. Nelson put New York back ahead for good with 42 seconds remaining.
Nielsen and Tavares scored in the third to make it 5-2 and chase Dubnyk less than five minutes into the period.
"I thought we played a pretty good game," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said "My philosophy is never to sit back. We're in attack mode. Tonight was a prime example of how we need to play. We didn't play safe."
The 24-year-old Nelson has come up big for the Islanders in his third full season. He scored 20 goals last year while playing all 82 games, and has now reached the mark this season in 48 contests.
"Just keep going, stay confident and shoot the puck," Nelson said.
The Islanders and Wild were both playing for the first time since Jan. 25 and Minnesota came out stronger at the start, outshooting New York 20-12 in the first period.
Coyle scored the only goal of the opening period with 5:26 to go, nudging the puck past Berube for his 14th of the season.
The second period was a different story for the Islanders. Grabovski rifled his eighth goal of the season past Dubnyk at 3:20.
Lee followed with a tip-in at 5:07, his seventh, to give New York the lead. The Islanders kept the pressure on the rest of the middle period, outshooting the Wild 15-8.
Pominville then tied it late with his sixth goal, before the Islanders pulled away. Niederreiter completed the scoring midway through the third for the Wild.
"We're losing the games right now," Wild coach Mike Yeo said "It's not like we are playing real well and just getting unlucky. Maybe a couple of games we had but for the most part we've had games and we've lost them and that's what we have to fix."
Capuano decided to give the start to Berube, who made one previous start for the team in October and was 4-0 with a 0.97 goals-against average at AHL Bridgeport. Jaroslav Halak dressed as Berube's backup. Thomas Greiss was scratched.
"We have three goalies. They aren't going anywhere," Capuano added. "It's not going to change."
The 24-year-old Berube was sharp throughout. A fourth-round pick by the Los Angeles Kings in 2009, Berube was claimed off waivers by the Islanders on Oct. 6 while Halak was injured, and made his NHL debut four days later at Chicago, where he stopped 30 of 34 shots in a 4-1 loss.
Berube said his mother and grandmother were at the game and the winning puck would be going back home to Montreal with them.
"It's always hard to get the first one and I finally have it," he said of the win. "Now, I can look forward."
The Islanders improved to 16-8-3 at Barclays Center, their home this season after 43 years at Nassau Coliseum on Long Island.
NOTES: The skidding Wild have totaled just 14 goals in their last nine games. ... F Ryan Carter returned for the Wild after missing six games before the All-Star break with a hand injury. ... Minnesota scratched D Christian Folin, F Justin Fontaine and G Niklas Backstrom. ... The NHL announced the Islanders' Jan. 23 snowed-out home game against the Philadelphia Flyers would be made up April 10 at 7 p.m. ... New York began a stretch of 10 games in 18 days. Of their remaining 34 games, 20 will be on the road. ... The Islanders were without D Johnny Boychuk for a10th straight game with an upper-body injury. He could return by this weekend when the Islanders visit Detroit on Saturday and host Edmonton on Sunday. D Brian Strait, F Steve Bernier were scratched.