Brian Boyle scored 2:48 into overtime after a controversial hit to complete a Tampa Bay Lightning 5-4 win over the New York Islanders in a Game 3 for the ages that gave the Lightning a 2-1 lead in their second-round playoff serires.
The teams traded goals throughout the night, capped by a back-and-forth third period where the Islanders took an early 3-2 lead, the Lightning answered quickly to tie it 3-3, the Isles took a 4-3 lead halfway through, and the Lightning stabbed Isles fans with a tying goal with just 38 seconds left to go in regulation.
It was the Islanders' best performance of the series so far, but they went unrewarded after failing to add an insurance goal in the third and failing to seal the game with a couple of icings as the final minutes wound down.
In opportunities to add an insurance goal, Josh Bailey had a chance for a hat trick from the slot, and John Tavares set up Nikolay Kulemin in a similar location, but in both instances Ben Bishop made the save on what would prove to be critical plays.
With the Lightning pulling Bishop for an extra attacker during the final minutes, Nikita Kucherov finally equalized from the slot on a pass from Jonathan Drouin, the prodigal son who is steadily becoming a key player in the series.
Then came Boyle's heroics, as he started the play with a check on Thomas Hickey (one Jack Capuano thought was a headshot, see below) and then retrieved a wide Victor Hedman shot from the end boards to put it past Thomas Greiss on the side of the net.
Capuano says he's sure the league is going to look at the Boyle hit towards the end of the game.— Joshua Kloke (@joshuakloke) May 4, 2016
Capuano said Boyle's hit on Hickey was "direct shot to head." Thinks Boyle should be suspended. "Type of hit we're trying to take out game."— Brett Cyrgalis (@BrettCyrgalis) May 4, 2016
More from Capuano: "Probably going to be suspended a game. Direct shot to the head. I watched it four or five times now. I normally don't come here and talk about these...those are the hits we're trying to get out of the game...it's frustrating that it had to end that way."
Others examined it in super slow-mo and saw Boyle make contact more with Hickey's body, though some conceded it could've been interference/late hit rather than a head shot.
You be the judge:
seconds before Boyle scored the winner pic.twitter.com/VJD1snDFfW— Stephanie (@myregularface) May 4, 2016
Hickey nails Drouin...then Boyle nails Hickey and scores OT winner on same play. Questionable hit. pic.twitter.com/xFC8ud2sIG— Pavel Barber (@HeyBarber) May 4, 2016
Boyle and Travis Hamonic were involved in pre-game warmup shenanigans, with the red-line testosterone match you occasionally see this time of year.
It was also a big night for Drouin, who came back to set up the tying goal after surviving a big and clean hit from Thomas Hickey earlier in the game, plus an uncalled high stick by Marek Zidlicky.
For the Isles, it was a jarring moment to see how the other half lives after they won three overtime games during their six-game victory of the Florida Panthers in the first round.
The teams face off again on Friday for Game 4 in Brooklyn.
Not to Be Forgotten
- Big game from Bailey, who returned from injury and replaced Ryan Strome to the chagrin of many fans, as he scored two goals around the net.
- Fantastic resilience from both teams, honestly, from the Lightning tying it at 1-1 late in the first on Ryan Callahan's goal, to the Isles surviving that blow and an early second-period lead by the Lightning, to all of the third period's back-and-forth. The Isles will need to rebound after giving back home advantage and suffering this moral blow.
- Great hit by Hickey, and nice to hear Drouin call it completely clean in post-game interviews. (Also: Good to see Drouin was no worse for the hit, which was a bit scary since his head took a blow on the play.) Hopefully Hickey is likewise okay after Boyle's hit on the winning goal.
- Painful to see Boyle score the winner for many reasons. He'll think it was justice after his first-period goal was called off for a high stick, though replays looked like his stick indeed made contact with the puck well above the crossbar.
- Great atmosphere again at Barclays. That's to be expected in playoffs, but the contrast with what we saw in the opening games in Tampa underlines that the rabid Isles fanbase has made the jump from the Coliseum to Brooklyn.
- Winning in overtime is awesome. Losing in it sucks.