UNIONDALE, N.Y. — With their Stanley Cup dreams on the line, Ryan Pulock kept the Islanders’ hopes alive.
New York was up by a goal with about 2 1/2 seconds left in the third period Saturday when Lightning defenseman Ryan McDonagh made a spin move that not only took Brock Nelson out of the play but also netminder Semyon Varlamov. That’s where the blueliner Pulock came in.
McDonagh had a wide-open net — until the 26-year-old Pulock slid through the crease and made the save that not only solidified the Islanders’ 3-2 win in Game 4 but also most likely saved the Isles’ season. The best-of-seven Eastern Conference finals series is now tied 2-2.
For about the final two minutes and 30 seconds of the contest, not a soul was sitting in the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum as the home team nursed a one-goal lead. They chanted “Let’s Go Islanders” and went wild when Victor Hedman was called for tripping Cal Clutterbuck with 72 seconds left. But going down a man didn’t stop the uber-talented Lightning.
And then, everyone held their breath as McDonagh began his spin-o-rama in the slot.
“Everyone was standing up, and I don’t know if you’ve noticed, I’m not really that tall, and so everybody stood up and I tried to take a peek up at the scoreboard real quick,” Isles coach Barry Trotz said. “It looked like it was going, obviously, in the net and then Puly came through and slid across and saved the game for us.
“I would say, it was never in doubt.”
Pulock’s play sent the Coliseum faithful into a tizzy as the final horn sounded. He then was swarmed by his teammates in the corner by the Islanders’ net.
“I just tried to make myself big and take it away and I was able to get it,” a humble Pulock said, adding later that he played a little bit of goalie in street hockey but has never put on the pads on the ice.
“Your heart sinks there for a second, but obviously a hell of a play by Puls to save the day there,” said Matt Martin, who scored the game-winning goal with his first of the 2021 postseason. “We’re not sitting here right now if he doesn’t do that.”
New York went up 3-0 on second-period goals by Josh Bailey, Mathew Barzal and Martin. The Lightning bounced back with two goals early in the final frame, off the sticks of Brayden Point and Tyler Johnson. Point’s snipe was his 12th of the playoffs. The Islanders then picked up the tempo and held the surging Bolts at bay until Pulock’s game-saver.
With the win, the Old Barn will see at least one more game. The Coliseum is set to close up shop at the end of the Islanders’ Stanley Cup run, but how long that’ll be is still to be determined. What is known is that Game 6 is Wednesday night and it’ll surely be a doozy, too.