UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Coaches always tell their team to play to the whistle, and there was a prime example why in the New York Islanders' 3-1, Game 6 win against the Washington Capitals at Nassau Coliseum on Saturday.
John Tavares found Nikolay Kulemin for the game-winning goal in the third period with several Capitals perhaps backing off thinking there would be a whistle.
The result tied the best-of-7 Eastern Conference First round series 3-3, causing the need for Game 7 at Verizon Center on Monday (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVA Sports 2, MSG+, CSN-DC).
With less than 10 minutes remaining in the third period, Capitals forward Joel Ward and Islanders defenseman Johnny Boychuk were tied up near the benches, and Alex Ovechkin and Brock Nelson also were jousting. But there wasn't a whistle, and Tavares skated into the Capitals zone and took a shot on goal that was saved by Braden Holtby.
Ovechkin checked Tavares behind the net, with Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner nearby, and the puck went to Islanders defenseman Nick Leddy along the boards. He passed to Nikolay Kulemin wide open in the slot, where he scored the goal that made it 2-1 with 9:27 remaining.
"It was a war zone in front of the bench there, and I just realized I had a lot of room and there was a lot more ice because of what was going on," Tavares said. "I tried to get to the net, I got hit there, the puck kind of popped out. Two guys were on me, so I think [Leddy] had time and fed Kulemin, and Kulemin made a nice move."
Kulemin said, "I saw open space in front of the net and Nick Leddy made a great play and Johnny Tavares made a great play in the corner and I had a breakaway."
Tavares, as would be expected, said he was fine with there not being a whistle.
"I don't really care [that play continued]," he said. "I think especially in the third, they let us play. It was just a battle on the wall. I went back to get the puck, so I didn't see what really happened afterwards. You play to the whistle."
Holtby, who made 35 saves, said he was surprised play continued.
"I've never really seen a play like that where it isn't blown down," Holtby said. "Playing 2-on-2 hockey. … It's one where I'd hope we keep our composure a little better and not have double coverage in a situation like that. It's tough to swallow, but it happens."
Ovechkin led the Capitals with five hits, including the one when he followed Tavares into the corner.
"I got a hit [on] Tavares. They make a play," Ovechkin said. "It happens. They bounced back and Kulemin scored."
Capuano said he was happy his players were aware and took advantage of the situation.
"When you think there is going to be a whistle in the playoffs, there's not," Capuano said. "You have to play whistle-to-whistle in this playoffs, and play continued on, and fortunately for us it was a big goal, obviously."