This group of Islanders has spent the season setting their own standard, erasing the unhappy memories of recent seasons bit by bit, game by game.
In front of an electric crowd Sunday afternoon in the Islanders' first home playoff game this spring, John Tavares and his team put their mark on another achievement to grab the series lead again.
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Tavares scored his first goal of the playoffs 15 seconds into overtime -- his first career playoff OT goal -- to give the Islanders a 2-1 win and a 2-1 lead over the Capitals. It was the Isles' first playoff OT win in 22 years and their first 2-1 postseason series lead in 22 years. They are halfway to their first playoff series win in 22 years.StatsGame 3 boxscore: Isles vs. Caps
"I'm sitting on the bench ready for my first shift of OT and it was over," Matt Martin said. "Johnny took it upon himself. It was a matter of time before he got one."
And it was the biggest one of a Game 3 the Islanders manhandled for long stretches. Right off the overtime faceoff, Tavares pulled the puck back to Johnny Boychuk, who rifled a long shot in on Braden Holtby.
John Carlson tried to send the puck up the wall but Nick Leddy cut it off. Nikolay Kulemin deflected Leddy's shot on Holtby, who played give-and- go with Brooks Orpik and tried to push the puck to his right. Tavares beat Carlson to the puck and chipped a shot from a sharp angle behind Holtby, who had made 40 saves in his return to the net after missing Game 2 with an illness.
"You just don't take any play, any shift for granted," said Tavares, whose line was opposite Alex Ovechkin's line most of the day. Ovechkin attempted 14 shots, nine of which were blocked, and was held off the scoresheet for the second time in the three games.
Sunday began with a fired-up Coliseum crowd of 16,170 and an Islanders team that matched its fans' intensity. The Isles had the first 10 shots on goal, returning to the possession and shoot-first style that they had used much of the season and in a forceful Game 1 win in Washington.
Holtby stood strong through 32-plus minutes of scoreless hockey, beaten only when Lubomir Visnovsky's slapper from the left point banked off Kyle Okposo's knee and in at 12:37 of the second.
The crowd reached a frenzy then and became even more frenzied at the second-period horn, thanks to Boychuk's superb effort to sweep the puck off Ovechkin's stick on a Caps power play, defusing a scoring chance for Washington's best player.
"I didn't think it could be any louder than it was two years ago when we played Pittsburgh," Jack Capuano said, "but it was.''
The comparisons to that 2013 playoff series unfortunately came to mind with 6:06 to play when Nicklas Backstrom snapped a wrist shot through a crowd off the crossbar and past Jaroslav Halak.
The Isles held a 33-13 shot edge through two periods and it was 36-21 inside of 10 minutes to go, but the Capitals pushed hard.
Capuano used his timeout before a defensive-zone faceoff that Backstrom won. Ovechkin was on the ice, but Boychuk was not because of a previous icing and the Caps controlling the puck. Ovechkin was parked in Halak's line of vision as Backstrom's shot sailed by.
So as two of the three home playoff games did two years ago, Sunday's went to overtime. The Isles lost Games 3 and 6 on home ice in overtime in 2013, but they didn't give anyone in the building the chance to worry that it might happen again.
"We wanted this one bad," Okposo said.
"It gets us one closer," said Tavares, who had four shots on goal and nearly scored in the final minute of the first period, poking a rebound through Holtby's pads and inches wide of the net. "We weren't that discouraged. We know it's tight and you're facing great goaltending. We stayed with it."