Clutterbucked! Cal’s Late Goal Leads Islanders to Victory

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I’ll say one thing about this team, they never fail to make things exciting. After scoring four times in the opening period, the Islanders used a late Cal Clutterbuck goal to skate past the Rangers 6-4.

The Islanders came blazing out of the gates. They blew the doors off the Garden. The Rangers had no idea what hit them. Just 2:50 in, Johnny Boychuk gave the Isles the early lead. Kyle Okposo skated in, spun around the D and got a nice shot off. Josh Bailey got the rebound in the corner and fed Boychuk who ripped it past Antti Raanta.

Just 45 seconds later, Brock Nelson would give the Islanders a bigger lead. Ryan Strome, John Tavares and Nelson skated into the Rangers’ zone, Tavares rocketed one at Raanta, he gave up a big, juicy rebound, and Nelson was there to put it home. Isles were up 2-0 just 3:35 into the game.

Just over a minute later, guess what? The Isles would score again! Kyle Okposo tipped a Nick Leddy blast past Raanta on the power play, and the Islanders would go up 3-0.

Think about this for a second. The Islanders had three goals, ten shots and were just dominating the game. They had a 3-0 lead before the Rangers even had a shot on goal, before the first commercial. Alain Vigneualt decided to use his time out early on. He needed to stop the Isles’ momentum before it got any worse for his team.

The Islanders had to know this was going to be difficult to keep up. This will not be easy. Hey, why should anything be easy? This is the Islanders. Nothing ever comes easy. They have played the least amount of games in the league, which means a hectic March/April, and they are just finishing up a seven game road trip. These guys are tired. But, you have to battle through it. The Isles seemed to forget that games are not five minutes long, and almost lost everything they earned.

The Islanders of the first 10 minutes were not the Islanders you saw in the second 10 minutes of the first. Every good thing the Islanders did early on was almost wiped away by lackluster defensive play and some suspect goaltending in the latter half of the period. Oscar Lindberg and Tanner Glass scored 39 seconds apart and all of a sudden it’s 3-2 Islanders. Now it was Jack Capuano‘s turn to take a timeout, something he rarely does. Vigneault’s timeout worked, would Capuano’s? The simple answer? Yes!


Johnny Boychuk, who almost single-handedly put the Islanders on his back, came up big yet again. Anders Lee tipped the puck to the Rangers’ blue line. Boychuk skated in and let one fly. The puck seemingly had eyes as it found its way past Raanta.

Just when you think that the insanity of the first period would be finished, the two teams surprised us once again. Just 31 seconds after Boychuk gave the Isles a two goal lead, Eric Staal put one past Jaroslav Halak. After one period, it was 4-3 Islanders. 7 goals on 23 shots in 13:45 of game play.

After the craziness of the first period, the second period was pretty tame. The only thing that stood out was a blatant missed call by the officials. Frans Nielsen broke in shorthanded on Raanta, getting a step on the defender. Mats Zuccarello fell down trying to stop Nielsen. In the process of trying to stop Nielsen he not only released his stick, which is a penalty, he got his stick under the arms of Nielsen, again a penalty. Nothing was called.

So, we would go to the third period. Historically, this season at least, both teams have had pretty good luck in the third, with the Islanders allowing the second least amount of goals in the third. So, it seemed like we would be in for a barn-burner of a third period. We sure were.

Trying to hold on to a one-goal lead when your goalie has been suspect all night, is tough enough. Add to it that your team had not put anything past the opposing goalie since the middle of the first period, and you have the makings of a nailbiter. But, fans have been through this before. They knew what was coming. They knew that the tying goal was a matter of time, it wasn’t just a possibility, it was an obvious eventuality. That eventuality came to fruition 11:39 into the period. Derick Brassard took a shot from the point and it slid past Halak who could not hang on to it. The game was tied at 4, and Islanders’ fans everywhere could feel the defeat settling in. This was a game in which they had a three goal lead, and at the very least the Rangers were going to get a point.


Not so fast says Cal Clutterbuck.

With 1:28 remaining in the game Clutterbuck got the puck from Casey Cizikas off the face-off. He rifled it past Raanta to give the Islanders the 5-4 lead. 27 seconds later, Nielsen, poetically perhaps, was able to put one into the empty net icing it for the Islanders.

What else can you say about this team? They went 6-1-0 on their seven game road trip. They are a season high 16 games over NHL .500. They have won three straight, and have points in eight of their last nine. They are now just three points behind the Rangers with three games in hand.

The Islanders are on a roll, and must keep it up. If last year proved anything, it’s that home ice advantage is vital in the first round. If the Isles and Rangers are to meet in the first round, let the Rangers travel to Brooklyn, a place they have never won.

One last note. Remember that Nino Niederreiter/Cal Clutterbuck deal? Cal now has 12 goals on the year, second on the team in hits, and three of his goals have been game-winners. Not a bad return for a player who just wanted out.



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