SUNRISE, Fla. — It was mild, then it was wild. By the end, the Islanders just wanted the two points to put an emotional game to bed, and it was Mathew Barzal who helped them get there.
Barzal scored the lone shootout goal and Jaroslav Halak shut the door on the Panthers after a shaky second period in a 5-4 Islanders win Monday night. The game featured Panthers goaltender Roberto Luongo being carried off the ice after an injury, Cal Clutterbuck being bear-hugged by John Tavares to keep him from going over the boards to confront an official, and another high-scoring game for the league’s highest-powered offense.
“It was kind of a crazy game,” said Barzal, who dazzled with a pair of great overtime chances that were denied by Florida backup goalie James Reimer before flipping a backhand past Reimer in the shootout. “I had a couple good chances in OT. We wanted that second point and we got it.”
Things started to get going 2:31 into the second. Luongo stretched out to turn aside Ryan Pulock’s slap shot and the 38-year-old former Islander stayed down, appearing to be in serious pain. Luongo barely did anything under his own power as Panthers trainers helped him off the ice in a 1-1 game to stick taps from both teams and applause from the Isles-heavy crowd.
Barely three minutes later, the Islanders took their first lead when Thomas Hickey’s shot deflected off a Panther stick and bounced past Reimer. Soon after that, though, the Isles simply lost their cool.
While killing a penalty, Clutterbuck dived into a post-whistle scrum between Vincent Trocheck and Anthony Beau villier. Referee Ian Walsh determined that only Clutterbuck deserved a minor, giving the Panthers a 55-second five-on-three. Aaron Ekblad wired one past Halak to tie it at 2 just after Jordan Eberle exited the box.
After another scrum in which nothing was called, Clutterbuck — aided by coach Doug Weight, who screamed epithets at Walsh — was whistled for a minor and a misconduct for shouting from the bench. That prompted the sight of Tavares holding Clutterbuck down before his teammate could get on the ice to continue his tirade.
Aleksander Barkov scored on that power play, putting the Isles behind.
“The second penalty was entirely my fault. I just lost my head there,” Clutterbuck said. “The first, I’ll never feel bad about that. It’s a 20-year-old kid getting roughed up in the corner and I got grabbed the same way I grabbed [Tro check] . . . I owe ’em all a pat on the back. I was real happy the way we responded. But it’s something I’ve got to make sure I don’t do again.”
Said Weight, “It’s not a good penalty, but let’s just say I gave him a get-out-of-jail-free card . . . I got everybody revved up on the bench. He and I will have a little serenity session on the plane and we’ll be better.”
The Islanders were quite a bit better after falling behind. Brock Nelson had his second goal in 15 games off a feed from Josh Ho-Sang to tie it at 16:19 and Tavares swept one through Reimer’s legs at 18:21 to give the Isles a 4-3 lead after two periods.
“It’s really the way we’ve been all year,” Tavares said. “We’ve been resilient and we haven’t let anything distract us.”
Even after a breakdown allowed Denis Malgin to tie it at 5:06 of the third, the Isles were strong — particularly Halak, who didn’t look sharp on Barkov’s goal or Keith Yandle’s first-period score but buckled down and finished with 39 saves, plus the final stop of the shootout on Jonathan Huberdeau for the win.
“He did just kind of reset,” Weight said. “I loved his game after the [Barkov] goal. We’ve talked about how we need a save at the right time and he gave us a few of those, none bigger than the last one.”