John Tavares’ look said it all.
Skating away from the side of the Pittsburgh Penguins’ net, Tavares rubbed his face, cleared his eyes and tried to regain his composure. But the New York Islanders captain, who is also the team’s leading goal scorer and top point-getter, looked absolutely stunned that Penguins netminder Matt Murray had found a way to stop what looked like a tap in for one of the league’s most pure goal scorers.
With the Islanders on a 5-on-3 power play midway through the second period, Tavares got a golden opportunity when Ryan Strome made a perfect one-touch pass across the crease. The split second Tavares took to set up the shot made all the difference, as in that moment Murray dove across to his left, stuck out his glove and snared Tavares’ shot:
Tavares’ shot was one of 25 stops Murray would go on to make in what would eventually be a losing effort, but it’s worth noting Pierre McGuire’s call immediately after Murray made his stop. He said if there was going to be one save that could potentially spark a comeback by the Penguins, that would be it, and, rather amazingly, it turned out that the Penguins did have a comeback in them.
Murray would surrender a third goal following the stop on Tavares, but 32 seconds into the third period, the Penguins got on the board thanks to a Conor Sheary tally. Half a period later, Justin Schultz potted his first of the year to pull the Penguins within one. And less than three minutes after Schultz’s goal, Evgeni Malkin knotted the score the game at three.
In the dying moments, though, the Islanders would manage to escape with victory. Anders Lee tipped home a Thomas Hickey point shot to give New York a 4-3 edge with 26.5 seconds remaining, and three ticks later, Nikolay Kulemin notched the insurance tally into an empty net. The scores three seconds apart tied an NHL record for the fastest pair of goals in league history.
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