Comeback kids do it again in Brooklyn


New York Islanders right wing Cal Clutterbuck (15), third from right, celebrates scoring a goal in the third period of an NHL hockey game against the Florida Panthers in New York, Monday, March 14, 2016. The Islanders won 3-2. (AP Photo/Bryan R. Smith)

Clutter Clutch: Cal Clutterbuck raises his arms after beating Roberto Luongo with 1:39 left in a stunning third period comeback in Islanders’ 3-2 win over Panthers. They trail the Rangers by one for second. AP Photo/Bryan R. Smith/Getty Images

For two periods, Barclays Center was quiet. Similar to their team that only had gotten 11 shots on Roberto Luongo. What ever was said in the locker room worked. Playing a relentless style, the Islanders dominated the third period scoring three unanswered goals to stun the Panthers 3-2 in Brooklyn.

The big comeback pulled the Isles within one point of the Rangers for second in the Metropolitan Division. If they can beat the Penguins tomorrow night on the road, they’ll pass their Broadway crosstown rivals in the standings. They entered three behind with three extra games left. Now, it’s down to one with two more at hand. They make up the second tomorrow prior to the Blueshirts’ three-game California road trip.

It was all Florida the first 40 minutes. They outscored the Isles 2-0 and outshot them 18-11. Sasha Barkov and Nick Bjugstad each tallied during the first two periods. When the second ended, disappointed fans at the new arena on Atlantic Avenue let their team know about it.

From the outset of the third, it was a different Islander team. With coach Jack Capuano starting his fourth line anchored by Casey Cizikas, they established a strong forecheck which provided some energy. With Florida going into a preventive shell, the more determined Isles came after the Cats with vigor. They fired as many shots (11) in the first half of the stanza but were unable to beat Luongo. He made a couple of sparkling saves and had a bit of luck with his best friend the goalpost.

But with the ice tilted, it was just a matter of time. Finally off a Panthers’ turnover in the neutral zone, Kyle Okposo broke through when his wrist shot from distance beat Luongo cutting the deficit to 2-1 with 7:10 left. Suddenly alive, they nearly fell behind on the following shift. The Panthers’ top line of Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau and Jaromir Jagr nearly connected. But Jagr sent a cross ice feed over the net with a gaping net.

It was that close to being 3-1. Instead, the Isles tied it on the following shift. On a strong cycle from Cizikas, Josh Bailey was able to get to a John Tavares rebound that Luongo leaked out and steer one home for the tying marker sending Barclays Center into bedlam. The two goals came 81 seconds apart.

The way the period was played, you could tell overtime would not be required. The Panthers went for it but were denied by Thomas Greiss. It was Luongo and his struggling defense that cracked. On a broken play, Cal Clutterbuck sent a backhand from a sharp angle in tight that fooled Luongo for the game-winner with 1:39 remaining. It was Clutterbuck’s second clutch goal in eight days. He also was the hero in a one-goal win over the Rangers on Mar. 6.

After Florida pulled Luongo, they pressured but were unable to force extras. Interestingly, the Isles have now won 11 straight when Clutterbuck scores a goal. He has 13 on the season.

Notes: The Islanders got defenseman Calvin de Haan back from a injury. He took 21 shifts logging 22:48 of ice-time with four shot attempts, a minus-one rating and five blocked shots. As a team, the Isles blocked 18. The trio of de Haan, Johnny Boychuk (4) and Travis Hamonic (3) accounted for 12 of the 18. … After getting outshot 18-11 in the first two periods, the Isles held a 17-7 shots advantage in the third. … Greiss picked up the win with 23 saves while counterpart Luongo stopped 25 of 28.

Battle Of NY 3 Star Selection

3rd Star-Sasha Barkov, FLA (goal-22nd, assist, 9 shot attempts, 9-and-4 on draws in 23 shifts (18:29)

2nd Star-Josh Bailey, NYI (game-tying goal-12th, 3 SOG, +1 in 17 shifts-14:48)

1st Star-Cal Clutterbuck, NYI (game-winner at 18:21, 3rd-13th of season, 5 hits, +1 in 19 shifts-14:39)

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About Derek Felix

Derek Felix is sports blogger whose previous experience included two stints at ESPN as a stat researcher for NHL and WNBA telecasts. The Staten Island native also worked behind the scenes for MSG as a production assistant on New Jersey Devil games. An avid New York sports fan who enjoys covering events, writing, concerts, movies and the outdoors, Derek has scored Berkeley Carroll basketball games since 2006 and provided an outlet for the Park Slope school's student athletes. Hitting Back gives them the publicity they deserve. From players, coaches to administrators, it's a first class program. In his free time, he also attends Ranger games and is a loyal St. John's alum with a sports management degree.
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