It was far from a complete effort, with another subpar second period bleeding into the third period. But in the end, it was all smiles for the Islanders one day before the NHL trade deadline.
Particularly offensive-minded defenseman Ryan Pulock, whose overtime winner left him mobbed by his teammates after he finally scored his first goal of the season.
The Islanders concluded a 5-1-0 homestand with a 3-2 win over the Rangers on Sunday night before a sellout crowd of 1,400 at Nassau Coliseum, remaining tied with the victorious Capitals for first place in the East Division.
"They were maybe more excited than I was, which was kind of tough," Pulock said of the immediate celebration, which included him pumping his arms and grinning broadly. "Throughout my career I’ve been able to score. To go through a little slump like that, it’s tough. As the games wore on, it got tougher. I knew I just needed to get that one and it came in a big moment."
"It was good for Pully," coach Barry Trotz said. "This is his best season by far for me, the way he’s defended and his decision-making. The one area he takes a lot of pride in is he’s been able to score some goals with his shot. This year he’s been snakebit. He was squeezing. He was trying to put the puck through end boards, he was trying so hard. I think it will just get him to relax a little bit."
The Islanders (27-11-4) could not hold a two-goal first-period lead, though they did snap a three-game power-play drought and kill off all three of the Rangers’ man advantages.
Ilya Sorokin stopped 24 shots for the Islanders, including Mika Zibanejad at the left post to start overtime, in his first NHL matchup against fellow Russian, friend, national team teammate and KHL rival Igor Shesterkin (29 saves).
Pulock, who had 10 goals and 35 points last season, scored the winner at 1:13 of overtime, getting to the right circle and converting Mathew Barzal’s feed.
Though Pulock acknowledged his frustration at times, he also kept it in check.
"He was pretty awesome," said Jean-Gabriel Pageau, who gave the Islanders a 2-0 lead with 7.6 seconds left in the first period off Jordan Eberle’s feed. "He was able to mask everything. He just wanted the team to win. Everyone was so pumped for him."
Trotz rearranged his lines in the Islanders’ third game since acquiring Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac, separating the two former Devils. Zajac was moved to Barzal’s top line with Eberle and Palmieri stuck with Pageau. That trio was completed by rookie Oliver Wahlstrom, reinserted after a two-game absence.
The Islanders had gone 0-for-1 without a shot with the man advantage in Friday’s 4-1 loss to the Rangers and were 2-for-23 over a nine-game span.
Palmieri’s power-play goal at 1:47 of the first period — his first point with the Islanders — exemplified the puck movement and shot mentality Trotz wants on the man advantage. Josh Bailey took a hard shot from the right circle, Brock Nelson tipped the puck and Palmieri, as the net-front presence, knocked it in.
"It felt good," said Palmieri, who originally is from Smithtown. "Beating the Rangers is a big thing and winning games at home is huge, especially this time of year."
The Islanders are 18-2-2 at the Coliseum.
The Rangers tied it at 2 on second-period goals from defensemen Libor Hajek at 10:23 and Brendan Smith at 12:16. The Islanders have been outscored 39-29 in second periods this season — 37-19 in games not involving the Sabres.
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