The Islanders -- down three defenseman due to injury -- defeated the Washington Capitals 3-1 to even the opening round series of the Stanley Cup playoffs at 3 and force a Game 7 Monday in Washington. Nikolay Kulemin scored the game-winner at 10:33 of the third period off a wacky set of circumstance that led to the Islander forward getting an 1-on-1 chance.
John Tavares entered the zone and tried to split two defenders, but the puck got sent into the corner. The Islanders captain went in to try to play the puck and was steamrolled by Alexander Ovechkin and was down on the ice. While the focus was on Tavares, the puck squirted to Nick Leddy, who fed Kulemin all alone in front of the net.
"Once I stepped on [the ice] I realized we were going to have a really good opportunity," said Colin McDonald, who was on the ice for the game-winner. "I was just trying to get to the net. I didn't even see Johnny, I'm not sure how he got the puck to Leddy. I knew [Kulemin] had quite a bit of time and he made a heck of a play."
It was a crazy ending to a game that had so much more than just a hockey season on the line. The Islanders are closing up shop and heading to Brooklyn whenever their playoff run comes to a close. With that in mind, the Isles showed up to Nassau Coliseum on a mission not to let this be its final NHL game.
The Islanders opened the game -- like five of the last six -- by scoring the first goal. Tavares walked into the zone, skated to the top of the slot and blasted a shot by Braden Holtby. However, John Carlson tied the game at one after scoring on the power play with 4.3 seconds left in the first period.
The score remained the same through the second -- when both teams had their opportunity to move in front -- until the third, when the Islanders capitalized on the opportunity presented to them. Cal Clutterbuck scored on the empty net to clinch it.
"I don't think we showed any nerves," Matt Martin said. "We just stuck to our game and played a complete sixty minutes and won."
The contest had a physicalness to it, away from just the play that lead to the game-winning goal. Both clubs combined for 78 hits and the nastiness spilled over after the final buzzer sounded. Carlson shot the puck at the net, which ignited a scrum that took a few minutes to break up before the Islanders celebration began.
"(I) Tried to make a shot and (Kyle) Okposo starting coming after me," Carlson said about the incident after the game.
The win sets up a Game 7 in nation's capital, where the nastiness will surely be amped up. The Islanders understand that as great as it was to win on Saturday, winning Monday and extending the season into a series with the Rangers would be even better.
"I think we know there is still a job to be done," Martin said. "It's not over yet. It was a good win. Obviously we had a quick celebration with our fans out there at the end of the game, but This win doesn't mean anything unless we go to Washington and take care of business.
"I think we're focused on the next one."