Cal Clutterbuck came through in the clutch for the New York Islanders on Saturday night, scoring the game-tying goal and overtime winner in a 4-3 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena.
The winner came at Jaccob Slavin’s expense, as Clutterbuck’s shot caromed off his stick and dropped in behind Eddie Lack at 4:46 of overtime. The Islanders’ forward also scored the second most important goal of the night, one-timing a Casey Cizikas feed past Lack 30 seconds into the third period.
“I didn’t catch it flush necessarily, it just kind of rolled,” Clutterbuck said. “I couldn’t really see it, I just saw it land behind the goalie. It was a good play by Brock [Nelson]. Honestly was just trying to hit it and get it on net somehow.”
Clutterbuck, who has five game-winners this season, doesn’t normally play in the three-on-three overtime. Head Coach Jack Capuano wanted to reward Clutterbuck, who has had his fair share of clutch goals for the team this season, including his tying goal in the third period.
“He’s one of the best leaders that we have on our team,” Capuano said. “He’s an experienced guy and he backs it up because he plays hard. When it got down to that last shift, I just looked at him, he hasn’t played in OT all year. You want to give your leaders an opportunity and he did the job for us.”
The Islanders picked up a huge pair of points on Saturday, putting themselves four points ahead of the Detroit Red Wings, who are currently trying to usurp them for one of the two Wild Card playoff berths.
“We just have to keep winning games,” Kyle Okposo said. “We have eight games left, we have to win, we have to get points. That’s how we’re going to do it, getting back to work and grinding it out.”
The win didn’t come easy, as the Islanders saw a 2-0 lead slip away before rallying to tie the game in the third period.
“We were resilient all night,” Capuano said. “Our guys battled hard. We had to work for our goals, I thought their goalie played real well. They had some seeing-eye pucks that found the back of our net, but our guys stayed with it, they battled. They deserved at least one point, but fortunately we got the two.”
The Islanders started out on the right foot, taking a 1-0 lead 1:35 into the first period. Kyle Okposo opened the scoring with a sharp-angled backhander, pulling off a spin-o-rama before skipping the puck off Eddie Lack’s stick and in.
The Islanders controlled the territorial battle in the first period and aside from a shot off the crossbar, held the Hurricanes without any real scoring chances.
Nikolay Kulemin scored for the second time in two games, putting the Islanders up 2-0 before the end of the first. Kulemin blocked a Justin Faulk point shot, setting up a breakaway from the Islanders blue line. He beat Lack with a quick shot upstairs.
The game got away from the Islanders in the second period, as their 2-0 lead turned into a 3-2 deficit by the eight minute mark. All three goals came in similar fashion with the Hurricanes crashing the crease and potting rebounds and loose pucks.
Victor Rask put the Hurricanes on the board 59 seconds into the period, Jeff Skinner tied it up at 5:34 and Jay McClement gave Carolina the board at 8:01. The Hurricanes outshot the Islanders 19-7 in the middle frame.
Capuano said he thought about pulling JF Berube (33 saves) after the second period, but wanted to give the young goalie a chance to grind it out for the Islanders.
“He’d probably like to have one back, but I wanted to stay with him and give him the opportunity,” Capuano said. “He made a couple of big saves for us… As a young goalie, this will give him some confidence going forward that he bounced back in the third period.”
Clutterbuck’s goal early in the third period was the spark the Islanders needed to take back control of the game. Clutterbuck one-timed a Casey Cizikas pass up high on Lack 30 seconds into the third period, as the Islanders outshot the Hurricanes 9-1 in the opening eight minutes. Kulemin also hit the post during the Islanders’ push.
“I think the whole mindset of the team going into the third period was really positive,” Clutterbuck said. “I think we felt really good about our game, where it was at and if we kept going, we’d tie it.”
The Islanders meet the Hurricanes again on Tuesday night at Barclays Center. Puck drop is at 7 p.m.