There is a pretty big reason why the two most prevalent advanced hockey stat categories are driven by shots. The more you shoot the puck, the more it tends to go in, which ultimately results in winning games. The Islanders embodied that during their furious third period comeback on Monday against the Panthers.
After registering just 11 shots on goal in the first and second periods combined, the Isles put 17 on net against Roberto Luongo in the third. More than that, New York bested Florida in attempts 31-16, as they spent the majority of the period just throwing anything they could at the net. Eventually, three of which found their way behind the former Islanders draft pick, and the boys in blue-and-orange stole a big one in front 14,106 in Brooklyn.
"This was a game we needed to win," Kyle Okposo said after the team improved to 5-17-4 in games where they trailed after two periods. "Years past, even last year late in the season, I don't think we find a way to win this game. I hope we're maturing as a group."
That maturity was evident in the way the Islanders regrouped and found a better way to deal with the frustration of coming out flat in an important Conference game than sulking around. They got to work. It took the forecheck 53 minutes to get going, but once it did, it created some key turnovers that helped get them in position to push any puck they got their stick on toward the net. A novel approach, right?
Quinton Howden's turnover at center allowed Okposo to walk in and fire a wrister over Luongo's shoulder. Then, just a minute and a half later, Thomas Hickey made a great play along the boards to eventually outlet to John Tavares, whose shot turned into a juicy rebound that Josh Bailey cashed in for the tie. And another battle won down low by Cal Clutterbuck allowed him to take a bad-angle shot that caromed in for the eventual game winner. None of that happens without a fierce forecheck, but it also doesn't happen without forcing shots on net by any means necessary.
Okposo's attempt looked relatively harmless, and it caught Luongo cheating along the ice too quickly. Tavares' was low and along the ice, and it created a rebound. Clutterbuck was probably looking for a rebound himself, but squeaked on by. Just the fact that these pucks were on net gave them the opportunity to go in, and that's the way you fight back in a game that looks like a lost cause.
It's a valuable lesson to learn, specifically once the playoffs come and the defense becomes more stifling and the power play opportunities become rare.
"I've been lucky this year," Clutterbuck said. "I just try and get pucks on net and create chaos. Those are the kind of plays where the pucks end up in the back of the net."
Keep it up, Cal. That's the way you win big hockey games.