John Tavares scored 34 seconds into overtime to give the New York Islanders a 3-2 win in a game they had trailed 2-0 just 65 seconds shy of the second intermission.
The win in Raleigh temporarily broke a curse of sorts against the Carolina Hurricanes, who came back to blow them out 8-4 the previous night in Brooklyn.
It also put the Isles back, again at least temporarily, into the East’s final wild card position.
Thomas Greiss made 30 saves after being half of a torched goalie duo in Monday’s loss.
First Period: Here we go
Joakim Nordstrom opened scoring at 12:30 of the first period after a neutral zone faceoff win and good forecheck by the Hurricanes. Lee Stempniak won a board battle with Anthony Beauvilier and found Nordstrom going through the slot with space. His sharp shot beat Greiss.
Second Period: No seriously, come on...
Despite even play, it looked like the Isles’ Carolina struggles were in full effect yet again when the Canes doubled their lead just 40 seconds into the second.
Elias Lindholm pinched Nick Leddy at the point and was off to the races. Though Leddy closed him down, Lindholm used what little space he had to snap a shot past Greiss to make it 2-0.
Play continued to go back and forth, fairly even, but things looked increasingly desperate as the clock wound down in the second.
Revenge of the Quick Strike
Then, finally a small measure of revenge.
Monday night the Isles were victimized by a pair of quick goals on two occasions. Tonight they returned the favor, using two goals 25 seconds apart to get back in the game in the final minute of the second period.
It all started with an unsuccessful but still defense-draining Isles power play, the Islanders’ first of the game at 16:42 of the middle period. Both units fired away, dealt with a few timely icing, then a mixed line kept pressure on after Sebastian Aho’s penalty expired.
Waiting like a Tavares-esque predator, Joshua Ho-Sang pounced on a deflected shot by Nikolay Kulemin to bury the first goal before Cam Ward could even react.
The Isles followed that up with a good forecheck, a backwards zone entry by Jason Chimera that you’d think the Canes might challenge for offside just because, and an equalizer by Chimera as he pounced on loose carom in the slot.
In just 25 seconds, and with only 40 left to go in the second period, it looked like things might finally trend the Isles’ way.
Third Period: Standstill
Greiss stopped Jeff Skinner on a clear breakaway three minutes into the third period, just getting a glove on the same move Skinner used on last night’s successful penalty shot.
Most of the chances for a late third-period go-ahead goal were in the Canes’ hands, prevented only by Greiss, with the likes of Lee Stempniak and Nordstrom coming up just short.
But Alan Quine created a great chance driving the net with three minutes left, and Ho-Sang only narrowly missed reaching the rebound.
On the next shift, Ward robbed Josh Bailey on consecutive opportunities with two minutes remaining. Anders Lee too was stopped, as Ward matched Greiss save for save as the Isles poured it on.
Overtime: Ho-Sang and Tavares Magic
Ho-Sang began the winner with a neutral zone interception. He took the puck toward his blueline and drew a check from Jordan Staal before outletting to Nick Leddy.
Staal was headed for a change; Ho-Sang was just winding up.
The Isles rookie took a return pass from Leddy and rushed with a head of steam through the neutral zone, over the Canes blueline, dropping to Tavares who had space to load up his shot, set up a screen, and beat Ward.
Two points. Two glorious, essential points. And a punch.
Tavares celebrates by punching Chimera in the face pic.twitter.com/gOUY6xD4ts— steph (@myregularface) March 15, 2017
- The Hurricanes lost Jay McClement to injury midway through the game.
- Alan Quine returned from injury, and looked fast. Whatever took him out of the lineup wasn’t slowing his mobility.
- Quine was in for Brock Nelson, who is listed as day to day with an upper body injury. That was the only lineup change with Scott Mayfield still scratched and Shane Prince, Johnny Boychuk, Casey Cizikas still injured.
- Neither goalie looked worn playing on back-to-back nights. Greiss and Ward were all that kept this from being another high-scoring Isles-Canes encounter.
- Ho-Sang made a few more of those “unconventional” decisions that get young players in trouble as they figure out what they can and can’t do at the top level, but overall he is playing with confidence and using his creativity well. He has the confidence and encouragement of the head coach. Damn, that’s important.
- Speaking of which, it was kind of referenced in the NHL tweet of the winner above, but at least in overtime Tavares and Ho-Sang make an interesting combination. Ho-Sang has the speed for the all-zone creativity Tavares usually tries in OT. If he can use that to buy space for the captain...suddenly I feel better about their chances in the 3-on-3 bonus round.
The Isles are off tomorrow — they’re supposed to discuss the prospect of recalling a goalie! — before hosting the Jets, who were snowed out in Newark tonight, on Thursday.
Oh, they also have one more meeting with the Hurricanes on April 6 in Raleigh, the 79th game of a season where every remaining contest will be important.