Cal Clutterbuck’s goal with 1:39 left in regulation proved the game winner as the New York Islanders completed a 3-2 comeback win over the Florida Panthers at the Barclays Center on Monday night. The Islanders played lackluster hockey for most of the first two periods but found their groove in the late stages of the game to steal two points. Kyle Okposo and Josh Bailey scored just 1:21 apart late in the third period to tie it while Thomas Greiss made 23 saves to earn the win.
“It was a huge win for us after only getting one point in the last couple of games,” Okposo said. “Everybody around us is seemingly getting points every night so it was a huge win for us, it was a huge two points. We’re fighting for home ice right now, we’re fighting to get into the playoffs and tonight was big.”
The Islanders got off to a shaky start in the first period in what almost looked like a replay of their poor play in Boston Saturday afternoon. The Panthers outshot the Isles 11-5 and kept the puck in the Isles zone for most of the first 20 minutes. Aleksander Barkov scored the first goal of the game with just 4:49 left in the period to give the visitors a 1-0 lead. The score would have been worse if not for some solid goaltending by Greiss who was starting his third consecutive game in the absence of the injured Jaroslav Halak.
The Islanders play improved only slightly in the second period but again, the Panthers controlled the tempo of the game and had better scoring chances. The Panthers had a lot of room to maneuver in the neutral zone and took advantage of Isles turnovers. Nick Bjugstad scored a power-play goal at the 8:03 mark of the second stanza to increase the Florida lead.
After 40 minutes, the Islanders had managed just 11 shots on goal on Roberto Luongo and had only a handful of decent scoring chances. The crowd of 14,106 voiced their displeasure with the Islanders lackluster play as they headed off the ice for the second intermission.
But the Isles looked like a different team in the third period. They came out skating with a purpose and started to win the one-on-one puck battles that the Panthers had dominated for most of the game.
“There wasn’t much that needed to be said going into the third, we knew we were going to lose the hockey game if we didn’t change the way we were playing,” Okposo said. “I thought we did a good job and just tilted the ice and took it to them.”
Okposo got the Islanders on the board on a wrist shot after he skated through the Florida defense at 12:50 of the third period. Then, Bailey gathered in the rebound of a Tavares shot and beat Luongo from the slot to tie the game with 5:49 left in regulation.
Clutterbuck added the game-winner on a backhand with just 1:39 left and the Islanders had their improbable comeback win. It was the veteran’s 13th goal of the season and his fourth game winner.
“In the third [period], we played to our identity,” Isles coach Jack Capuano said after the game. “I want them to realize that’s the way we need to play–the attention to detail, the intangibles, the little things.”
The Islanders return to action in a key game against the surging Pittsburgh Penguins in Pittsburgh on Tuesday night at 7 PM ET. It is the start of a three-game road trip for the Isles.
The Islanders wore green jerseys during warmups in honor of St. Patrick’s Day.
Calvin de Haan returned to the Isles lineup after missing eight of the last 11 games.