Upon Further Review, the Isles Come Out on Top in OT

Martin Gelinas knows the feeling. In Game 6 of the 2004 Stanley Cup Finals, Gelinas appeared to give the Calgary Flames the lead with a potential Stanley Cup-clinching goal, but video replay proved inconclusive whether the puck crossed the line. The Flames eventually lost the series in seven games with the call forever in doubt.

Doug Weight and the New York Islanders did not want to endure a similar fate in Wednesday’s 3-2 overtime win against the Buffalo Sabres, when video review was the deciding factor in a game-tying goal from Josh Bailey.

“When I heard the horn (I knew the puck was in),” Weight said. “We have possession, so as far as I’m concerned, if they (the officials) blow it down and then they say it’s inconclusive, we have possession in our own zone. They can’t do that. When that horn goes, that means that Toronto said it is a goal. We dumped the puck in, so I would have had a big problem with blowing the horn and saying inconclusive.”

Just 69 seconds separated the Islanders from defeat at the hands of the NHL’s lowliest team despite astute goaltending from Jaroslav Halak and strong play in front of the net. The Isles pulled Halak for the extra attacker in an attempt to tie the game and cycled the puck to Josh Bailey standing in the right circle.

Bailey’s shot grazed off the glove of Sabres’ netminder Robin Lehner in a diving attempt at the save. It initially appeared that Lehner kept the puck out of the net, but video review said otherwise with replays showing his glove above the goal line, leading to a tie score.

“I knew it had a chance,” Bailey said. “I wouldn’t say I knew. I preferred to have known right away and seen it hit the back of the net, but it all ended up working out. It was a great play by Johnny (Tavares). He sucked everyone into him, and I was just trying to get lost off the back post, and he did all the work. I saw his (Lehner’s) glove kind of snap back, but I wasn’t sure. I would have rather had some clarity than waiting it out like that.”

For the second consecutive start, Halak looked sharp in goal, stopping 37 of a possible 39 shots. The Sabres had several scoring opportunities against Halak in odd-man rushes, but he did not waver. Jordan Nolan, the son of former Islanders’ head coach Ted Nolan, intercepted a Bailey pass near the neutral zone early in the third period and proceeded on the breakaway, but Halak stood firm with the puck sitting between his pads.

“He was good both nights,” Weight said of Halak. “He made some pretty big saves. I think some point-blank shots, and he had good rebound control. He was in command, and it was a good effort. Coming down to the last two minutes, he kept us in the game. It is huge for him, and it is huge for our team. Those are two points you would be kicking yourself (if you didn’t get).”

Until the Isles tied the game on Bailey’s reviewed goal, the Sabres kept applying pressure in the offensive zone and took advantage of a Scott Mayfield turnover with under nine minutes remaining. Evander Kane gained control of the puck and fired a hard shot at the net leading to a rebound goal from Kyle Okposo after Halak made the save on Kane.

Okposo, who spent the first nine seasons of his career with the Islanders before signing with Buffalo before the 2016-17 season, nearly broke the hearts of the hometown fans with his clutch goal late in the period.

“I thought we played a pretty good hockey game,” Okposo said. With the exception of the first six or seven minutes of the game, I thought we outplayed them. We had our chances. We played a pretty simple game. It’s a tough outcome. I was just trying to go to the net and Kaner is a shooter. I thought we played well and we just have to bring that effort into our next game.”

In the overtime period, the Isles controlled the pace of the play, forcing the Sabres into making a line change. As the Sabres attempted to get fresh bodies onto the ice, defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen could not exit with Mathew Barzal entering the offensive blue line. Barzal split Ristolainen and found enough space to sneak a shot past Lehner for the winning goal to extend his point streak to five games.

“Speed is what makes the difference (with Barzal),” Halak said. “He is a fast player. He can make the play and set up guys for great passes or shoot a puck like he did in overtime. That’s what makes him so special. We need to keep getting points and climbing up the ladder and surprise ourselves.”

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