Jack Capuano didn’t gamble much with his lineup through most of the regular season. It took injuries for any call-ups to crack the roster, and of those, Adam Pelech was the one who showed the most promise before he was sidelined for nearly three months.
But Capuano did a little gambling before this Islanders-Panthers series began, putting three rookies in the lineup to see what they could do.
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All three — Ryan Pulock, Shane Prince and Alan Quine — had an impact in the Isles’ 4-3 overtime win in Game 3.
Not as big, perhaps, as OT hero Thomas Hickey or video coach Matt Bertani, who radioed to the bench to challenge for offside on a potential killer goal by Aaron Ekblad that would have given Florida a 3-0 lead. (He was proved correct.)
But Pulock, Prince and Quine, none of whom was an Islander before Feb. 28, have made themselves at home in the lineup this series.
Soon after the coach’s challenge overturned Ekblad’s goal, Pulock scored off a cannon of a slap shot during a five-on-three to make it 2-1.
Prince, off a nice feed from Pulock, buried a shot over Roberto Luongo midway through the second period to again bring the Islanders within a goal.
Prince, Quine and Ryan Strome have formed a third line that Capuano has deployed sparingly but effectively.
“That line played well, did some good things. They create because they have some speed and deception to their game,” Capuano said. “For me, it’s also how they play away from the puck, and they got trapped in their own end a few times, but they created some offensive zone time for our club.”
Rookie defenseman Pulock, 21, brings the same risk/reward factor.
Capuano thought Pulock, who had 17 goals for AHL Bridgeport in his first pro season in 2014-15, was playing it too safe during the first six games after his recall at the end of February.
He sat the young defenseman for a stretch but put him back in for the final week of the regular season, and he saw Pulock add some puck movement and an eagerness to get up the ice to his game.
Of course, that can be accompanied by a few defensive lapses, but the ability to shake those off comes with being a young defenseman in the NHL.
“He’s calm, he’s composed and he can shake off those plays pretty easily,” Hickey said of Pulock.
The two were the third pair for the first two games before Capuano put Calvin de Haan with Pulock.
Two minutes after Pulock’s one-timer brought the Isles to life, he was caught flat-footed by Reilly Smith on a rush up the left side, and the play ended with a Panthers goal.
“He knew he got beat on one of those plays there, but he came out next shift and put it behind him,” Capuano said. “He’s a lot more assertive than when he first came here, and that’s a good sign.”