After a closely fought two-plus periods, the New York Islanders had a 3-1 lead in Florida with the look of consistency that had eluded them in previous seasons. But then penalties struck, and desperate icings, and one bobbled clear, and the Panthers had tied it at 3-3 to force overtime and ultimately a shootout, where the Islanders prevailed.
The Islanders penalty kill was actually good all night -- the lone goal conceded was really the aftermath of a 4-on-4 -- but they were put to work three times during the third period. That and an injury to Cal Clutterbuck helped mess up the flow as the Panthers made an aggressive push for the tying goal.
Battle Level Report
Our immediate post-game impressions, Battle Level style, with room for immediate reader reactions in comments
HAHD: Nikolay Kulemin, always and everywhere. His goal was classic "I do not give up until mission is complete" Kulemin.
SMAHT: Jaroslav Halak with the crazy presence of mind and body control to freeze that puck behind his neck and against the crossbar. He made some big saves after it was tied in the third and in OT too. (Not smaht: John Tavares and Josh Bailey taking consecutive stick-slashing penalties in the third. Bailey's was a weak call though -- two players jamming for the incoming puck, and Bailey won. But lost.)
WARRIORS: Cal Clutterbuck and the rest of the penalty kill, including the three-man unit of Frans Nielsen, Thomas Hickey and Johnny Boychuk in OT. But particular warrior points for Clutterbuck, who took a shot off the back of the leg and created a partial shorthanded break on the same third-period kill. And to Nielsen, who started the shootout with a conversion despite finishing OT on that kill.
PASSENGERS: The referees. They made dodgy call after dodgy call, to the bewilderment of both teams.
SCARY (the opponents who stood out): Nick Bjugstad is always scary. So big, such good hands and mobility. Brian Campbell came alive and led rush after rush as the Panthers made their push to tie in the third.
Puck Like Bird on Shoulder
Halak, after his crazy neck freeze/save:
Tavares Like Crazy Man on Park Bench