In his brief time as coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets this season, Todd Richards had the coach's challenge in his pocket, ready to use it at a moment's notice.
It proved valuable for New York Islanders coach Jack Capuano, who took assistant coach Matt Bertani's advice and successfully erased what would have been a goal for Florida Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad off the scoreboard at 4:08 of the second period, a goal that would have given Florida a 3-0 lead in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference First Round at Barclays Center on Sunday.
When replays concluded Panthers forward Jonathan Huberdeau entered the zone offside, it changed the complexion of a game the Islanders won when Thomas Hickey scored at 12:31 of overtime to give New York a 4-3 victory and a 2-1 lead in the best-of-7 series.
Game 4 is at Barclays Center on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET; USA, SN, TVA Sports 2, MSG+, FS-F).
"You knew that you had that challenge, so every time the puck crossed the blue line into your zone, you were always aware of that," Richards told NHL.com on Monday. "Anything that came close, I think anything that's close, a coach is already on the headset or they're telling whoever to look at that play right away. I know there might be some staffs that have somebody upstairs right away, that they know when the puck crosses the blue line … if someone carries it across and there's no question, there's no need to look at it. But I'm guessing just because of the importance and how quickly you have to make a decision, I would think that most staffs probably have somebody looking at it right away. Anything that's close, somebody is designated to go back and look at those plays so the coach can make the call."
The Islanders fed off the response of the capacity crowd and Ryan Pulock's power-play goal got them within a goal at 2-1, 1:13 later.
"On TV sometimes it's tough to get a feel, but it seemed like at that point the crowd in the building really got going," Richards said. "I think Florida did a good job taking them out of it, but that was a huge, huge swing and a lot of positive energy for the Islanders. They needed something positive to happen."
Pulock was one of three players not on the Islanders' first line to score for New York in Game 3; Shane Prince scored off a brilliant feed from Pulock later in the second period and Hickey won it off a feed from Brock Nelson in overtime.
"You've got to get contributions," Richards said. "Everyone has a game plan going in. If you're playing the New York Islanders, you're keying on (John) Tavares and that line. They've done a really good job having a positive impact in the game, but they can't do it themselves, so you've got to have that secondary scoring. When you get those contributions, obviously that's a plus for the team."
Despite another solid performance from Florida's top line, forward Jaromir Jagr did not score Sunday and has gone 34 straight postseason games without a goal, dating to April 13, 2012 when he was playing for the Philadelphia Flyers. But given the amount of chances the trio of Jagr, Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov have created, Richards expects Jagr to end the skid soon.
"He's too good of a player," Richards said. "He's big and strong and smart and experienced. He has all those intangibles, so you would expect that. They had some really good shifts in the offensive zone where they were able to grind it. One thing I think you always talk about as a coach when you're playing these series is invest. Invest for Game 7. You may not win this game, but if you're playing in the offensive zone and you're grinding and grinding, you start wearing their defensemen down and the opportunities will present themselves."