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If Islanders go on to win Stanley Cup, Ryan Pulock's already-epic play will become legendary

Ryan Pulock of the Islanders blocks a shot

Ryan Pulock of the Islanders blocks a shot by Ryan McDonagh of the Lightning during the third period in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Semifinals at Nassau Coliseum on Saturday. Credit: Getty Images/Rich Graessle

Iconic New York sports moments do not require a world championship for validation.

Exhibit A: Bobby Thomson. The defense rests. (Ask your grandparents.)

But it helps.

So Ryan Pulock’s game-saving save on Ryan McDonagh on Saturday night awaits a final verdict based on whether the Islanders close the deal by winning six more playoff games.

If they do not, it still will be a part of team lore – the Endy Chavez catch of Islanders hockey. Or . . . Chris Chambliss’ home run? Derek Jeter’s flip? Larry Johnson’s four-point play?

We can do this all day, people. How about Kevin Durant’s game-tying basket late in regulation time in Game 7? (Sorry. Too soon?)

Imagine, though, if the Islanders win their first Stanley Cup since 1983 after avoiding a potential 3-1 semifinal deficit against the Lightning thanks to Pulock’s stop with about two seconds left and his goalie out of position.

Then Pulock would be venturing into Babe Ruth / Willie Mays / Ron Swoboda / Willis Reed / Mookie Wilson / Stephane Matteau / David Tyree territory.

Sound hyperbolic? Maybe. But Pulock’s pilfering of McDonagh — bonus points for doing it to a former Rangers captain — was that special.

That debate is for another day, though. We are in the middle of it right now.

After the Islanders defeated the Penguins in double overtime in Game 5 of a first-round series — a game in which they were outplayed — coach Barry Trotz was asked whether it might be a "defining moment" in this playoff run.

His answer applied then, and it applies now:

"You don’t know what a defining moment is until it’s all over," he said. "We’ll see. That’s a great question, but that’s probably a question when our season’s over, I can answer that more accurately."

So for now Islanders fans ought just to savor Saturday’s finale and look to Game 5 on Monday — with the local playoff spotlight now wide open for the Isles upon the departure of Durant’s Nets shortly after Pulock’s save.

It was just one victory, but it sure was fun.

"I think everyone was kind of a little bit in shock, and everyone’s heart kind of stopped for a second," Anthony Beauvillier said on Sunday before the team flew to Tampa.

"Everyone was just happy to get the win and obviously everyone was relieved, and it was a huge play at a huge time of the game. Those are the moments we’re going to remember forever."

Beauvillier spoke to reporters alongside Pulock’s fellow defenseman, Scott Mayfield, who noted that had Pulock not shoved the puck aside and rather covered it with his glove, a penalty shot might have ensued.

"That’s kind of the point I think that gets missed a little bit, is if he grabs onto the puck there, if he covers it, anything like that, he creates more of an issue," Mayfield said.

"The fact he had the awareness to not do that and just kind of push it off to the side was huge. It’s desperation — desperate hockey there. It’s probably one of the best plays I’ve ever seen to finish a really important game."

Pulock saved himself in addition to his team. McDonagh’s chance resulted from a bad clearing attempt by Pulock that was intercepted by the Lightning’s Ondrej Palat.

"If they score there, we’d be talking about ‘Pully’ a different way," Trotz said. "But he cleaned up his own mess a little bit, having the presence to understand that you can’t cover that puck, understanding the desperation that was needed and reading it, all that.

"So he cleaned up the mess and he’ll be on ‘SportsCenter’ and all the YouTubes and all the different social medias for quite a while now, every playoff time."

Pulock indeed was all over the YouTubes and social medias, and his stop was the No. 1 play on the top 10 list on "SportsCenter."

It unquestionably was the play of the day. But what about of the season and of this entire Islanders era?


New York Sports