Ryan Pulock's OT winner capped an entertaining tilt at Nassau Coliseum on Thursday night, as the New York Islanders beat the Vegas Golden Knights 3-2.
Mathew Barzal drew a penalty in the extra frame to give the Isles a rare OT power play and they were quick to convert. Anders Lee worked the puck out to Pulock, who forewent his booming slap shot to finesse a wrister past Malcolm Subban with 1:40 to play.
The win brought an already-primed Coliseum to its feet, as the Isles continued their winning ways at home, extending their home point streak to 11-0-1, their best in the Post-Cup era.
Video: VGK@NYI: Pulock rips PPG by Subban for overtime win
"PAINTING THE BARN"
Barry Trotz felt that his team got back to their hard-working identity on Thursday night, though he presented it in a more interesting and eloquent way. Instead of trying to "paint a Picasso" like they had in Montreal, he felt his team just needed to "paint the barn."
To make that happen, the Isles coach shuffled his forward group and brought in a bonafide farm boy, playing Ross Johnston alongside Barzal and Josh Bailey. The thought was to balance out the lines a little bit bringing a straight-line and physical presence to a skill-focused group. (The same thinking behind pairing Leo Komarov with Brock Nelson and Anthony Beauvillier and Derick Brassard with Anders Lee and Jordan Eberle.)
"We tried to balance the lines out a little bit," Trotz said. "We had a couple of lines that wanted to - I use the term - paint a Picasso, but we just needed to paint the barn… Trying to do things that aren't efficient for us and aren't winning hockey games. So we tried to spread the wealth a bit through the lines."
Video: Pulock scores in OT to lift Islanders to 3-2 win
Trotz rolled four lines on Thursday night, and the Isles were extra energized early on after Deryk Engellend hit Matt Martin from behind at the Islanders bench. The Isles responded to the challenge of a big, physical Vegas team by outhitting the Golden Knights 39-13.
"It was a man's game tonight," Trotz said. "I liked the way we played. We played Islander hockey tonight. Four lines. We kept coming at them, we stayed on the puck and won our battles. We didn't deviate from the predictability stuff that we like."
"It was a good test and we got the two points at the end," Trotz added. "One of our better games of the year."
CLUTTERBUCK OPENS SCORING:
The Islanders lines were thrown out of sync when Cal Clutterbuck left Tuesday's game against Montreal early in the first period after absorbing a cross-check to the face.
Rested, recovered and good to go on Thursday, the Isles got a peak performance out of their pesky and physical winger.
Clutterbuck finished the game with a goal, five hits and two blocks, opening the scoring with an absolute snipe over Subban's shoulder on a two-on-one at 4:26 of the second period. The 32-year-old winger nearly set up a second goal, as he and Casey Cizikas generated a shorthanded two-on-one later in the period, with Subban getting just enough of Cizikas' shot.
"That whole Cizikas line had a Cizikas-line night," Trotz said. "They were creating chances, turning pucks over, they were making it very difficult on their D to exit, they were physical and doing all those things. They were as advertised."
Video: VGK@NYI: Beauviller, Nelson team up for nice goal
ISLES GIVE UP LATE LEAD:
Despite a solid night from the Islanders, the visitors - who entered the game on a four-game winning streak - did not go quietly on Thursday night.
Alex Tuch matched Clutterbuck's snipe with one of his own at 15:27 of the second period. Brock Nelson put the Isles up 2-1 at 3:56 of the third period - burying a nice feed from Anthony Beauvillier, who paced all Isles forwards with 21:24 TOI.
But even on a night when Semyon Varlamov was dialed in for 31 saves, the Golden Knights found a way to tie the score, with Jonathan Marchessault tying the game at 15:28 of the third.
Instead of folding, the Isles showed their resolve, controlling the pace and place play in overtime leading to Barzal's drawn penalty and Pulock's winner.
Video: NYI 3 vs VGK 2 (OT) : Barry Trotz
"You've just got to stick with it," Clutterbuck said. "Once that puck goes in, there's nothing you can do about it. It's still a 2-2 hockey game with four and a half minutes left. You've got to do your best to go out there and take that point back. We did that."
Two points in the present helped the Isles stay near the top of the Metropolitan Division, but the sentiment in the room was that same resolve and 60-minute effort against a good team might be the springboard back into a solid stretch.
"I think our game wasn't really there for the last couple weeks in spots," Clutterbuck said. That road trip wasn't great for us. We came home and managed to beat Columbus and we win a couple there. I don't think we were still at that level that we wanted to be at. Sometimes a good team coming into your building and a good test is a good way to reestablish that. We've got to carry that with us on the road here."
The Islanders head out on a three-game road trip, starting on Saturday night in Dallas. Puck drop is at 9 p.m. eastern.