The Florida Panthers were stalking the New York Islanders for the first 52 minutes on Monday night, but it was the Islanders who pounced, scoring three quick goals in a 3-2 comeback win at Barclays Center.
Kyle Okposo, Josh Bailey and Cal Clutterbuck all scored in a 5:31 span, as the Islanders roared back for a crucial two points in a gut-check win.
“We were going to lose a hockey game if we didn’t change the way we were playing,” said Okposo, whose wrist shot from the high slot ignited the rally. “We did a good job of tilting the ice and taking it to them.”
The Islanders got off to a rocky start, managing just 11 shots on goal in two periods, while falling behind 2-0. Sensing the frustration of his team – and feeling frustrated himself – Jack Capuano didn’t even speak to his team during the intermission, letting them look each other in the eye and find their game.
They did, storming the Panthers for 17 shots in the third, in a win that Clutterbuck said showed the Islanders’ maturity as a group.
“It’s the sign of a mature team,” Clutterbuck said of the Islanders resiliency and fight in the third period. “It’s that type of group, that type of team.”
Clutterbuck capped off the comeback with his 13th of the season, backhanding a rebound past Roberto Luongo from the side of the net. That goal came 4:10 after Bailey scored from a similar spot, potting a John Tavares rebound to tie the score.
Thomas Greiss (23 saves) also came up in the clutch, robbing Vincent Trochek on a backdoor play with the score tied. With the win, the Islanders moved to within one point of the New York Rangers and created some separation with the Pittsburgh Penguins, who they play on Tuesday night.
“Every win going forward now is big,” Bailey said. “Each one gets a little bigger and tomorrow night will be no different.”
It certainly didn’t start that way. In Clutterbuck’s words, the game was “plodding along” void of much emotion as the tight-checking Panthers opened up a two-goal lead on goals by Aleksander Barkov and Nick Bjugstad. Clutterbuck felt the Islanders picked up their play at the end of the second, shortly after Anders Lee injected some fire into the contest with a big open-ice hit on Dmitry Kulikov and subsequent fight with Reilly Smith.
“I don’t think it takes a rocket scientist to figure out that the first 35 minutes were some of our worst minutes,” Clutterbuck said. “With that being said the third period was a big third period for us.”
“[We got] two points. We’re moving on.”