VIN A. CHERWOO, AP Sports Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — Thomas Hickey saw an opening in overtime, went to the net and gave the New York Islanders a big win in their Brooklyn postseason debut.
Hickey scored 12:31 into the extra period to lift the Islanders to a 4-3 victory over the Florida Panthers on Sunday in Game 3 of their first-round series, giving New York a win in its first playoff game at the Barclays Center.
“We had a good shift and grinded them out a little bit,” Hickey said. “Somebody went to change, I saw a gap, and an unbelievable pass and (it) just got off my stick.”
Hickey’s one-timer off a pass from Brock Nelson from behind the net gave the Islanders a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series. Game 4 is also in Brooklyn on Wednesday night.
Hickey also scored the overtime winner at Washington on April 5 that clinched the Islanders’ third playoff berth in four years.
“He’s got a knack for finding the right spot,” fellow defenseman Travis Hamonic said. “I haven’t seen the replay yet. I just saw him celebrate and everyone started jumping up on the bench.”
Ryan Pulock, Shane Prince and Frans Nielsen scored for the Islanders, and Thomas Greiss had 36 saves. John Tavares and Kyle Okposo each had two assists.
Reilly Smith had a goal and two assists, and Aleksander Barkov and Nick Bjugstad also scored for the Panthers. Smith has four goals and four assists in the series. Roberto Luongo stopped 35 shots.
The Panthers were leading 2-0 when Aaron Ekblad appeared to give them a three-goal advantage just past the 4-minute mark of the second period. However, that goal was overturned on a coach’s challenge when video showed Florida was offside when it entered the zone, firing up the raucous crowd.
New York coach Jack Capuano credited video coach Matt Bertani with alerting the bench to call for a review.
“At times, you can see from the (bench) where it might be goalie interference or offsides,” Capuano said, “but our video guy did a great job calling that in. That was the turning point. Down by two is a lot different than down by three.”
Penalties on Alex Petrovic and Jussi Jokinen 25 seconds apart gave the Islanders a 5-on-3 advantage 5:08 into the period. New York quickly took advantage as Pulock scored just 13 seconds later, sending the sellout crowd into another frenzy.
“Our fans were great,” Hickey said. “I had goosebumps after the anthem. They stuck with us and we fed off that.”
But the Panthers regained their two-goal lead just 15 seconds after the Islanders’ power play ended as Bjugstad knocked in the rebound of a shot by Smith at 7:23.
However, Prince took a feed from Pulock and fired it up high on Luongo’s blocker side to make it 3-2 with 8:12 remaining. Then, about 40 seconds after Dmitry Kulikov was whistled for clipping, Nielsen tied it with a backhander past Luongo with 3:05 left in the period.
“We get up to a good lead,” Panthers coach Gerard Gallant said. “We had about five or six minutes of the second period where we didn’t play well and it cost us two goals.”
Smith got the Panthers on the scoreboard at 2:25 of the first period as he backhanded a bouncing rebound off a shot by Petrovic from the left side of the net over a diving Greiss’ stick for his fourth goal of the series.
“Reilly was awesome,” Gallant said. “Every game, that line’s been real good for us. He’s contributed big time and put pucks in the net.”
Smith, who tied Dave Lowry for the franchise record with goals in three straight playoff games, also hit the crossbar with a backhand attempt later in the first.
Barkov made it 2-0 just 1:11 into the second period. Smith’s shot from the right side was wide right, but the rebound came off the end boards to Barkov on the left side and he knocked in the rebound for his first goal of the postseason.
NOTES: Florida lost its previous two overtime playoff games, dropping Games 6 and 7 of the first round to New Jersey in 2012, the latter in two extra periods. … Gallant said injured C Vincent Trochek is ‘doing real well’ and will work out on the ice Monday. Gallant expects him back before the end of the series. … Florida’s Jaromir Jagr has not scored a goal in his last 34 playoff games. … Panthers D Brian Campbell played in his 100th career playoff game. … Tavares now has two goals and four assists in the series, and nine goals and 11 points in his last 13 games. … Okposo has two goals and nine assists in his last seven games. … Greiss had played three games in four days once this season — Dec. 31 to Jan. 2. The Islanders won two of those three games.
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