When you've played physical hockey for as long as Lubomir Visnovsky has, being sent to the dressing room after getting knocked out on the ice is like taking a bathroom break. I'll be right back, fellas, he might as well have told his Islanders teammates as he headed off in the middle of the second period. Don't do anything without me.
It wasn't until the 38-year-old defenseman returned to the ice (he missed a little more than two minutes of playing time) that the Islanders took a 1-0 lead in what eventually became a 2-1 overtime win over the Capitals on Sunday.
And of course it was Visnovsky in the middle of the play, first absorbing a big hit from Washington pile driver Alex Ovechkin (who outweighs him by close to 70 pounds) at the blue line to keep the puck in the offensive zone and then, moments later, firing a shot toward the goal. The shot grazed the knee of Kyle Okposo before hitting the net with 7:23 left in the second period. Visnovsky and Josh Bailey were given assists.
"He's the silver fox," Okposo said. "He's a great, heady veteran player. He's a warrior. He came back after taking a pretty tough hit and was able to make some plays, huge plays for us down the stretch. He made a really good play on my goal and he's been great for us all year when he's in the lineup."
Visnovsky played only 24 games last season because of two separate concussion issues, so when he was leveled by a blindside hit by Troy Brouwer and lay motionless on the ice, there was obvious cause for concern. Visnovsky eventually got to his skates and looked as if he wanted to stay on the ice. Instead, he was sent back for a quick medical evaluation.
"I was a little bit dizzy for just a couple of seconds," Visnovsky said. "The doctor gave me a couple of questions and they said 'you're ready' and I feel OK and I go back on the ice . . . I was a little bit out for a couple of seconds and I feel after I was not dizzy and I remember everything."
The crowd of 16,170 showed its appreciation when he skated back to the bench with 9:44 left in the second. So did the Islanders themselves, even if they were expecting a quick return.
"He's a veteran, so it's OK," fellow defenseman Johnny Boychuk said of Visnovsky's brief absence. "He's used to doing that."
It's the kind of grit the Islanders are looking for from Visnovsky, the only Islander who was even born the last time the team won the Cup in 1983.
"[He's] been there and done it before," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. "When that happens, you know those young guys on the bench, they seize it and it helps them along."