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Barzal brings joy to Barclays with OT winner for Isles

Islanders’ late comeback caps successful homestand

December 28, 2017 By John Torenli, Sports Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The Sabres can only watch in stunned amazement Wednesday night as Islanders super rookie Mathew Barzal skates away in triumph after delivering the game-winning goal in overtime at Downtown’s Barclays Center. AP Photo by Craig Ruttle
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As the seconds ticked off the clock on what felt like another lost opportunity for the New York Islanders, a deafening horn sounded throughout the rafters of Downtown’s Barclays Center, giving our borough’s hockey club an unexpected reprieve.

“It was a nice horn to hear,” Islanders head coach Doug Weight said after the video review booth in Toronto deemed Josh Bailey’s shot on goal with 69 seconds to play worthy of a closer look.

Bailey’s cross-ice shot had been miraculously saved by Buffalo goaltender Robin Lehner with just over a minute to play, or so everyone thought.

After reviewing the play, Lehner’s glove, which had swiped Bailey’s shot out of the crease and back into play, was just barely behind the goal-line, resulting in a reversal of the original call and a 2-2 tie which forced overtime.

Super rookie Mathew Barzal’s ensuing snap-shot at 1:08 of the extra session gave the Islanders a 3-2 win over the visiting Sabres in front of a hearty crowd of 15,027 on the corners of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues, finishing off a solid 2-0-1 homestand for the Orange and Blue.

“I’m just elated that we got two points,” said Weight, whose club climbed within five points of red-hot, first-place New Jersey in the Metropolitan Division standings. “Big comeback with a minute-nine, and to win it overtime is two huge points.” 

“I was able to get it a centimeter over the line,” added Bailey, who extended his points streak to nine games before picking up an assist on Barzal’s game-winner.

That centimeter wouldn’t have mattered much if not for the goaltending heroics of Jaroslav Halak, who kept the Isles in the contest all night by stopping 35 of 37 Buffalo shots, including 13 big saves in the third period and a point-blank attempt in overtime.

“He was huge for us,” Bailey said of Halak, who was between the pipes for all three games on the homestand. “He bailed me out a couple of times. He deserves a lot of credit in this win.”

So does Barzal, who continues to emerge as one of the brightest young stars in the sport. By netting his 13th goal of the season and fourth in the past two games, the 20-year-old second-line center upped his rookie point total to an NHL-best 36.

Jason Chimera scored his first goal since Dec. 1, and team captain John Tavares added a pair of assists as he and Bailey remained tied for second place in the NHL in points with 48 apiece.

Buoyed by their late comeback, the Isles hope to build on their longest run of games in which they picked up at least one point since a four-game winning streak to close out November when they visit Winnipeg on Friday night.


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