After the final horn sounded, Ryan Pulock was mobbed by his New York Islanders teammates as if he were the winning goalie.
In a way, he was.
The defenseman’s sliding stop of Ryan McDonagh’s spin-around backhand with 2.7 mere seconds remaining in the third period preserved a 3-2 success against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Semifinals at Nassau Coliseum on Saturday.
Instead of heading to overtime, NY tied the best-of-7 series, with Game 5 at Tampa Bay in Monday .
New York led 3-0 entering the 3rd period, but Tampa Bay closed within 3-2 on goals by Brayden Point (3:45) and Tyler Johnson (6:43), setting the stage for the frantic last seconds.
The Lightning were shorthanded after Victor Hedman was called for tripping with 1:12 remaining but pulled Pittsburgh Steelers t shirt logo transfers goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy to even the skaters at 5-on-5.
It looked like the Islanders might close the Canada custom patch maker game without any drama until Ondrej Palat intercepted Pulock’s clearing attempt along the right-wing boards with seven secs remaining and backhanded the puck to Nikita Kucherov to the right of the net. Kucherov redirected the puck out to McDonagh in the still left circle and he suddenly had a wide-open possibility to tie the overall game.
With Islanders goalie Semyon Varlamov coming out to challenge him, the Lightning defenseman spun away from a diving Brock Nelson and appeared to have the web open in front of him when he backhanded the puck.
Watching from the bench, Islanders forward Mathew Barzal, along with many of his teammates and coach Barry Trotz, thought McDonagh was going to score.
Pulock said his only goaltending knowledge was from playing street hockey as a kid. With Varlamov out of position, Pulock’s instincts took over and he slid into the net behind the goalie to stop McDonagh’s shot before guiding the puck safely in to the left corner.
Varlamov was among the first to hug Pulock after time expired. He was joined by the rest of the Islanders, who emerged piling off the bench as though Pulock have scored an overtime goal.
The Lightning experienced a different feeling, going Brand logo iron on stickers from the excitement of thinking they were approximately to tie the game to the disappointment of the series getting tied.
Trotz’s watch from the bench was blocked by his position players, so he tried to watch on the center-ice video board. Maybe that helped him remain calm.