RALEIGH, N.C. —
As far as lucky bounces go, the Islanders certainly have set a record for overtime winners scored off opposing players’ faces or chests. But with the regular season dwindling and the playoff race tightening, the Islanders will take two points with luck, skill or any other means necessary.
Cal Clutterbuck’s slapper caromed off Hurricanes defenseman Jaccob Slavin’s chest and into the Carolina net with 13.8 seconds left in overtime Saturday night to give the Islanders a 4-3 win that was so very important on a busy NHL day.
“If that’s what it takes, that’s what it takes,” said Clutterbuck, who tied the score 30 seconds into the third period with a more conventional shot past Eddie Lack. “I can’t say I feel bad.”
The Islanders pulled out an overtime win in Winnipeg three weeks ago after a shot deflected off a Jets player’s face shield and dropped to Kyle Okposo’s feet for a tap-in. The Islanders didn’t think they’d need that kind of finish after a strong first period and a 2-0 lead Saturday night, but that turned to dust in an ugly second.
The Hurricanes scored three times on 19 shots in a span of 7:02 against J-F Berube, who fumbled two pucks in his grasp that ended up behind him.
Coach Jack Capuano admitted he thought about turning to Thomas Greiss as Berube, the little-used rookie making his fifth start of the season, looked shaky.
“They scored some goals that shouldn’t go in, I know that,” said Berube, who finished with 33 saves. “I owed it to my teammates to come back strong and we all pulled it out.”
Clutterbuck’s goal on the opening shift of the third period set a tone the Islanders needed after blowing the lead. He had drawn a hooking penalty as he cut into the Hurricanes’ zone and, on the delayed call, snapped a pass from Casey Cizikas past Lack to tie it.
“We just wanted to give the guys a lift to start the third,” said Clutterbuck, who has 15 goals this season, nine of them in the third period or overtime. “Our whole mindset going into the third was that we were pretty confident we were going to come back.”
Coming off Friday night’s 7-4 loss to the Lightning in Tampa, a game that also was tied 3-3 in the third period, the Isles’ confidence might have seemed outsized. They pressed for the go-ahead score through the first 12 minutes of the third, with Nikolay Kulemin hitting the post in a bid for a second goal.
“It’s good when you score early. You have the whole period to keep going,” said Kulemin, who assisted on Kyle Okposo’s goal 1:35 into the game and then scored a nifty breakaway goal later in the first. “We had a lot of chances.”
But the Hurricanes surged back late in the third and Berube came up with a big stop on Slavin. Noah Hanifin hit the post in a back-and-forth OT before Clutterbuck’s winner sent the Isles home without having lost or gained ground in the Eastern Conference playoff muddle.
“We had no doubt that were going to win this game,” Berube said. “There was just a lot of confidence in here.”