In an airtight Metropolitan Division playoff race, taking two points in regulation was the top priority for the New York Islanders on Tuesday night.
So when the Philadelphia Flyers tied the score 3-3 with 1:32 to play in the third period, the Islanders could have just played to overtime, but that would have involved giving away a point to a team lurking one point behind them in the standings.
Instead, the Isles re-grouped, shook off the late tying goal and went for the jugular with Ryan Pulock rescuing the regulation with an absolute bullet from the point with 41 seconds to play. That held up as the game-winner in an eventual 5-3 win for the Islanders.
"That was huge obviously," Pulock said of getting two in regulation. "Finding a way to get it done and not give them those points could be very big at the end of the year."
With the win, the Isles (72 points) gave themselves a little bit of breathing room over the Flyers (69 points), who are in the second Wild Card, and maintained their hold on third place in the Metro Division. The Islanders are two points ahead of the Columbus Blue Jackets (70 points), who occupy the first wild card, and have two games in hand on the Jackets.
The path to the two points wasn't without its drama. The Islanders jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first period, only to see the Flyers claw their way back into a tie over the next 38 minutes. Head Coach Barry Trotz joked that this was the type of games that age coaches, but he was proud of his team for sticking with the process and earning their second character win in as many days.
"The biggest thing for me is that no matter how a game is going we're staying to the process," Troz said. "Stuff is going to happen during the game and how you react off of it. There's no panic on our bench. We've seen that in the last little while. We've responded in the right times and tonight we did again."
Video: Pulock's late goal lifts Islanders past Flyers
ISLES JUMP OUT TO 3-0 LEAD:
After scoring five goals against the Washington Capitals on Monday night, the Islanders' offense carried through to Tuesday's contest, as they opened up a 3-0 lead on the Flyers in the first period, getting goals from three different lines.
Josh Bailey got the party started, as his half-slapper deflected off of Tyler Pitlick and knuckled past Brian Elliott at 7:45 of the first period. The goal was Bailey's 12th of the season and fourth point in the past two games (1G, 3A).
Losing Casey Cizikas 3:23 into Monday's affair didn't slow down the Islanders fourth line, as Matt Martin finished a two-on-one rush with Leo Komarov at 11:13. Derick Brassard - rotating in with Cizikas out - sprung the duo with a tremendous spin-o-rama pass out of the Isles' zone. The goal was Martin's fifth of the season and second in his last four games.
The Islanders' top line rounded out the trio of first-period goals, as Jordan Eberle netted his 10th of the season at 15:36. Eberle potted a Mathew Barzal rebound, the second of three assists on the night for Barzal.
Video: PHI@NYI: Martin converts on odd-man rush with Komarov
FLYERS MOUNT COMEBACK:
The Flyers did not go quietly, scoring a pair of goals in the second period to close the gap to 3-2. Travis Konecny beat a screen Semyon Varlamov at 9:34 to put the Flyers on the board and Robert Hagg followed up 2:18 later.
Philadelphia nearly tied it on a shorthanded breakaway before the end of the period, but Varlamov came up with a key left pad save on Michael Raffl to preserve the 3-2 scoreline.
Still, the Flyers, who entered the game with a +22 goal differential in the third period, kept pressing. Konecny put a backdoor feed off the base of the post, but eventually the pressure paid off, as Sean Couturier knocked in a Claude Giroux rebound that kicked hard off the end boards and out in front of the net.
Video: NYI 5 vs. PHI 3: Ryan Pulock
That tied the score 3-3 with 1:32 to play, setting up the dramatic finish. The Isles went for the jugular, with Barzal capping his three-assist night with a dish to Pulock, who drilled an absolute laser top corner past Elliott. Leo Komarov iced the game with four seconds to play.
"We didn't have a great second, but we stayed with it, we stayed resilient," Pulock said. "Obviously it was a bit of a heartbreaker at the end and then we were able to flip that switch."
CIZIKAS LEAVES GAME:
Casey Cizikas left Tuesday's game at 3:23 of the first period after colliding awkwardly with Ivan Provorov along the boards. Cizikas did not put any weight on his left leg and was helped off the ice by teammates and trainers. Cizikas did not return and Trotz did not have an immediate update after the game.
The Islanders head out on a four-game road trip starting on Thursday night in Nashville. Puck drop is at 8 p.m.