UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Holding a one-goal lead late in the second period of Game 3 of the Eastern Conference First Round against the Washington Capitals, the New York Islanders found themselves in a difficult situation.
Defense - NYI
GOALS: 0 | ASST: 1 | PTS: 1
SOG: 9 | +/-: 2
Defenseman Brian Strait
was sent to the penalty box with 1:20 left for high sticking Capitals forward Jay Beagle
. Washington, which boasts one of the more dangerous power plays in the NHL led by 53-goal scorer Alex Ovechkin
, was handed a tremendous opportunity to tie the game before the second intermission.
But Islanders defenseman Johnny Boychuk would have none of it.
Boychuk blocked three shots from Ovechkin near the left circle, then managed to swat the puck out of the Islanders zone while falling down to help keep New York in front heading into the third period.
The Islanders gave up the lead in the third, but went ahead in this best-of-7 series when John Tavares scored 15 seconds into overtime for a 2-1 win. Should they go on to win a Stanley Cup Playoff series for the first time since 1993, some may point to the effort Boychuk gave on that sequence in the second period as a pivotal moment.
Does he agree?
"No," Boychuk said. "It was good, but it's a whole series. It's not just one play.
"It was just a good penalty kill. (Ovechkin) hammered it on me a couple of times, and it didn't feel very good. It's just something you have to do. You have to sacrifice your body and you have to be aware of where he is on the ice because he's deadly."
Led by Boychuk, the Islanders have managed to take a 2-1 series lead without defenseman Travis Hamonic, who plays in all situations. Hamonic sustained an undisclosed injury in the second-to-last game of the regular season, and there is no timetable for his return.
Game 4 will be played at the Coliseum on Tuesday (7:30 p.m. ET; USA, SN360, TVA Sports 2, CSN-DC, MSG+).
"Without (Hamonic) in the lineup, it's real important," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. "You take him out of your lineup, a right shot, you rely on Johnny, and he did a great job. He's a big body. He played a lot of hard minutes for us tonight. He took some big hits, he dished out some big hits. Not only did he do a good job 5-on-5, but especially on the penalty kill as well. Overall, I thought it was a real good game by 55, no question."
Boychuk's teammates certainly weren't surprised. His leadership has played a huge role in the Islanders' ability to get back to the playoffs after failing to qualify last season.
"You know, he's been great all year," Tavares said. "He does everything for us. You can tell he's played in I don't know how many playoff games. His ability to understand the situations and then execute … not only that, but to have the calmness and composure, make plays and be able to be a big influence for us at both ends of the ice is huge. He was great tonight."
Said left wing Matt Martin, "We wouldn't be where we are right now without him."