Following a wild 3-2 win on Saturday night, the Islanders now sit on a 2-2 series tie with the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Stanley Cup Semifinals. This game was truly chaotic, down to the very last second (and I mean that quite literally).
So how did the Isles manage to tie the series? With a massive amount of support from their two best defensemen.
Most of the time when you compare the play styles of Adam Pelech and Ryan Pulock, they’re pretty different yet compliment how the other tends to operate. Pulock, with his cannon of a slapshot, is generally looked at as the more “offensive-minded” of the two, while Pelech is widely thought of as more of a “stay-at-home” defensive blueliner (with a pretty underrated amount of offensive awareness and puck handling to boot). With that said, both Pelech and Pulock took pages from each other’s books in the Game 4 victory.
Huge breakup by Pelech on the 2 on 1 pic.twitter.com/pCxdAEVft0
— Rob Taub (@RTaub_) June 20, 2021
It all started on the Isles’ second goal of the night. With Tampa Bay hemmed in their own zone, the Islanders went to work. Solid movement and cycling saw the puck makes its way out to Pulock, then to Pelech and cross-rink to Cal Clutterbuck. Clutterbuck corralled the pass at the blue line, and threw a wrister on net through a sea of bodies. The puck bounced perfectly off the pad of Andrei Vasilevskiy and right onto the awaiting stick of Mathew Barzal.
The Isles weren’t quite done with their second period scoring. The Lightning tried to clear the zone but the puck was held in at the line by Pelech. After Matt Martin missed the net from out near the blue line, the puck bounced to the left corner behind the Bolts’ net. Pelech aggressively pinched in and won the foot race… from there he threw a shot on goal that was tipped by Clutterbuck before it bounced perfectly to Martin, who put it “up in the toy department” as Butch Goring would say.
After review, we have a GOOD GOAL.
— NHL on NBC Sports (@NHLonNBCSports) June 20, 2021
ewThat Martin tally would be a lot more important than most would’ve thought going into the third. Brayden Point scored in his seventh consecutive game to break the shutout bid, and Tyler Johnson wired one over Semyon Varlamov’s glove to cut the lead to just one with a little under seven minutes gone in the final frame.
The Islanders, trying to lock down on their one-goal lead, were heading to the power play with 1:12 to play in regulation, with Victor Hedman off for tripping. For once, fans should be happy about the Isles’ power play simply passing the puck as it actually killed a large amount of the remaining time… but not all of it. Vasilevskiy goes to the bench to even give Tampa the extra attacker, and even though it was five-on-five the Bolts had the Isles on their heels.
In the final seconds, former New York Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh picked up the puck and to broke out the “spin-o-rama” move. He fooled Varlamov, who had aggressively came out to challenge what he — and probably everyone else in the building — thought was going to be a shot on the forehand. He didn’t fool Pulock. Just when everyone thought the game was tied, Pulock shielded the puck that was mere inches away from the line and tying the series for the Islanders.
RYAN. PULOCK. pic.twitter.com/9BEPWY5UZI
— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) June 20, 2021
When asked postgame about his improbable netminding performance, Pulock said “I played a little bit of goalie in street hockey, but that’s about it.”
With that stop, Pulock not only preserved the win for the Isles, but guaranteed at least one more trip to 1255 Hempstead Turnpike on Wednesday night.
Follow Carter on Twitter at @cbentivenga14