Cal Clutterbuck was the hero for both moments -- his tying goal 30 seconds into the third period, and his winner with 14 seconds left in overtime. Potentially as important as the two points for the victory were the fact Clutterbuck was able to secure the bonus point before the game reached a shootout, giving the Isles their 36th regulation-or-OT win (ROW) of the season, which is the first standings tiebreaker after 82 games.
With the win the Isles kept pace one point behind the Metro's third-place Penguins, who won earlier in the day, and four points ahead of the Flyers, who are playing in Arizona in the late game, as well as the Red Wings, whom the Pens victimized to keep them out of the wild card picture.
Despite two early icings, the Islanders got the start they wanted...followed by a second period of nightmares.
Kyle Okposo opened scoring 95 seconds into the game with a why-not spinning backhand from a bad angle.
Nikolay Kulemin extended the lead to 2-0 late in the first period on a breakaway after blocking a Justin Faulk shot, scoring for the second game in a row after ending a 21-game goalless drought last night in Tampa. (His goal also drew a turkey call on air from Josh Bailey's dad, as the annual dads trip was in full effect.)
But the second period was a nightmare, with the Isles outshot 19-7 and outscored 3-0. Victor Rask got the Hurricanes on the board inside the first minute. When Brock Nelson took a penalty to end an Islanders power play early, Jeff Skinner tied it on the ensuing four-on-four.
Less than three minutes later Jay McClement completed the misery, turning the Isles 2-0 lead into a 3-2 deficit in just eight minutes as the Canes repeatedly got pucks to the net and crashed for rebounds.
Things settled down somewhat after that, and the Isles stuck with Jean-Francois Berube as he made what ended up being 33 saves, including two in overtime.
The Clutterbuck Experience
Clutterbuck demonstrated yet again why he's the most irreplaceable part of "the best fourth line in hockey" -- namely, because he's much better than a fourth liner, yet he'll accept the role and run with it without having his agent demand a trade.
He had five shot attempts overall, and the two that made it on net were the ones that counted.
The first came as the fourth line got their traditional "start the period, set the tone" shift to begin a third period where the Isles simply had to get something from the game. The trio indeed got their forecheck going, and Clutterbuck's drive to the high slot drew a delayed penalty call. John Tavares' jump on the ice for a sixth attacker wasn't needed, as Clutterbuck picked himself back up, eluded coverage in the slot, and rifled home a Casey Cizikas pass inside the near post before Tavares could factor in the play.
Clutterbuck's overtime winner was a little more fortuitous, and frankly wouldn't have hit the net at all but for Lady Luck. (To say nothing of Jack Capuano playing a "hunch" by giving Clutterbuck a rare OT shift as time was set to expire.)
After Nick Leddy chased down the puck in the corner of the Hurricanes zone, Brock Nelson took his pass to set up Clutterbuck in the high slot. The winger's flipping shot was headed high and wide but redirected off of Jaccob Slavin's upper body and past Eddie Lack.
Now the Isles have two days off, or at least two days between games, for the final time this season. What lies ahead is a Tuesday rematch with the Hurricanes in Brooklyn, the start of eight games in 13 days, including three games in four days next weekend against the Penguins, Lightning and Capitals.