Thomas Hickey’s overtime winner at 12:31 capped off a wild, emotional and intense Game 3 comeback on Sunday night, as the New York Islanders beat the Florida Panthers 4-3 to take a 2-1 series lead at Barclays Center.
“We had our ups and downs, but we didn’t get discouraged at all,” Hickey said of the resilient win. “I think that was huge, to get down, come back and show that it really doesn’t matter what the score is.”
Wild is probably the most apt word to describe the scene on Atlantic Ave. on Sunday night, capturing the spirit of what transpired on the ice and in the stands. The game offered a full emotional swing, as the Islanders rallied from a 2-0 deficit for the win, and it was reflected by the fans, who proved that Barclays Center can match any building when it comes to noise and intensity.
“I love our fans, but I didn’t know it was going to be that good,” said Hickey, who let out a burst of raw emotion after jumping into the play, taking a pass from Josh Bailey and beating Roberto Luongo. “I had goosebumps after that national anthem, just taking it all in.”
Hickey, who scored the OT winner two weeks ago in Washington, was undoubtedly the first star, but the second had to be Islanders’ video coach Matt Bertani, who changed the complexion of Sunday’s game by radioing in a coach’s challenge after Aaron Ekblad seemingly put the Panthers up 3-0.
Bertani didn’t challenge the goal, but rather the play before the goal, arguing that Jonathan Huberdeau had gone offside entering the zone, voiding all that came after. He was right and the coach’s shrewd call boosted his players, who not only drew two consecutive penalties, but cashed in, as Ryan Pulock beat Roberto Luongo through a screen at 5:21 to get the Islanders on the board.
“At times you can see on the ice what you might think is goalie interference or offside, but our video coach did a great job of calling it into us,” Head Coach Jack Capuano said. “That was the turning point. Down by two is a lot different than down by three.”
That sparked the play the Islanders on the ice, who barnstormed the Panthers right after.
“That was an incredible boost, you could feel it in the building when they called it no goal, it gave us extra life too,” Hickey said.
The Panthers eventually got their third goal, as Nick Bjugstad stuffed in a rebound after Thomas Greiss made an impressive breakaway stop on Reilly Smith, who finished the game with a goal and two assists, but the Islanders – who staged a comeback on the Panthers at Barclays Center this season – were undeterred.
Shane Prince accepted a Pulock pass in the slot and made no mistake, roofing his first of the playoffs past Luongo at 11:48. Five minutes later, the Islanders’ power play struck again, as Frans Nielsen backhanded his second of the postseason past Luongo. With that goal, the Islanders and Panthers went into the third period deadlocked 3-3.
After a wide-open second period, both teams played a cautious third period, with few scoring chances on either side. Overtime was overtime, with gasps coming from the crowd on even the most innocent of shots, but the crowd collectively exhaled when Hickey lit the lamp.
“The roof isn’t as old as the Coliseum’s was, but it sounded like it was going to come off,” Travis Hamonic said. “I think there’s certainly been some anticipation throughout the year and as soon as we made the playoffs that we were ready for this game and the crowd was going to be ready. We wanted to make sure we gave them a good game and we certainly did. They got their money’s worth tonight.”
Highlights & Analysis: Islanders vs. Panthers
Hickey on OT-Winner: It's A Character Win for Islanders
Hickey Wins It for Islanders in Overtime
Quine Discusses Islanders' Gritty Game 3 Victory
Greiss: Islanders' Comeback OT Win Was Unreal