Hickey's OT winner gives Isles 2-1 series lead

Mon Apr 18, 2016 1:22am EDT
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(The Sports Xchange) - Thomas Hickey's final goal of the regular season ensured the New York Islanders would return to the playoffs for the second straight season. His first career playoff goal put the Islanders another step closer to some place the franchise hasn't been in 23 years.

Hickey scored with 9:29 left in overtime Sunday night to give the Islanders a 4-3 victory over the Florida Panthers in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals at Barclays Center.

The Islanders lead the best-of-seven series two games to one. Game 4 is scheduled for Wednesday night at Barclays.

"It's a great feeling, you try not to get caught up in it," said Hickey, who clinched a playoff spot for the Islanders on April 5 by scoring in overtime to end a 4-3 win over the Washington Capitals. "We got that one in Washington (to) clinch and we wanted to keep moving forward. It's a big goal, but that game's over and we've got a series to win here. Puts us in a good spot, but we've got a lot of work to do. We've got two more wins to get. That's going to be tough."

Those wins have been impossible to get for the Islanders, who have not won a postseason series since they reached the Wales Conference finals in 1993 -- back when Hickey was four years old.

Hickey's goal gave the Islanders a series lead after three games for just the second time in eight postseason series since 1994. New York led the Capitals two games to one in last year's seven-game quarterfinal loss.

"It's a different year and different team we're playing, a little bit of a different team that we have in here," Islanders defenseman Travis Hamonic said. "I think you've got to draw on those experiences. I think as a group we're certainly a bit more mature."

For a little while in the second period, it appeared as if the Islanders were in danger of going down two games to one in resounding fashion. The Panthers took a 1-0 lead in the first on Reilly Smith's goal 2:25 into the game and doubled the lead when Alexsander Barkov scored just 1:11 into the second.

Florida appeared to take a three-goal lead at 3:57, when Aaron Ekblad fired a shot under goalie Thomas Greiss' right shoulder. But Islanders head coach Jack Capuano used his replay challenge and it was determined Panthers center Jonathan Huberdeau was offside on the play.   Continued...

Apr 17, 2016; Brooklyn, NY, USA; New York Islanders defenseman Thomas Hickey (14) celebrates after scoring the game-winning goal against the Florida Panthers with New York Islanders center Shane Prince (11) and New York Islanders left wing Josh Bailey (12) during the overtime period of game three of the first round of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Barclays Center. The Islanders defeated the Panthers 4-3 in overtime to take a two games to one lead in the best of seven series. Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports