To paraphrase Gary Thorne, Brock Nelson went from off the floor and onto the board.
The New York Islanders’ second-line center provided the game-winning goal in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final just two nights after he was had to go through concussion protocol after an illegal boarding penalty from Alex Killorn — who was suspended for that hit — and a subsequent crosscheck to the head by Barclay Goodrow upon his immediate return to the Game 2.
His efforts Friday night saved the Islanders from facing an insurmountable 3-0 series deficit, slotting a wrist shot over Andrei Vasilveskiy with 3:25 left in regulation after New York blew a 3-1 third-period lead.
It was the exclamation point on a two-point night, which also featured a perfectly-placed assist from behind the net on Anthony Beauvillier’s go-ahead second-period tally.
Beauvillier returned the favor on Nelson’s game-winner, sending a spinning no-look pass to set up the goal.
Such an output was arguably the finest night of Nelson’s seven-year NHL career, which all came with the Islanders, as he continues to reach new heights. And that hasn’t been lost on his head coach, Barry Trotz, especially after the difficult Wednesday night he had.
“Brock’s a little bit under the radar to a lot of people,” Trotz said. “He’s grown so much over the years. He’s battling through that last game. Wasn’t easy. I wasn’t surprised, knowing Brock. He just got determined.”
His teammate, Cal Clutterbuck — who scored the opening goal in Game 3 — went even further in his praises.
“He’s a pro. He’s an elite hockey player,” he said. “He displayed another level of character in the way he responded tonight.”
Now with eight goals this postseason, Nelson’s emergence garners hope that the Islanders’ second line is waking up after most of the offense was generated from the bottom-six forwards.
“If we’re going to have any success in this series, I know that we’re going to need contributions from all the lines. Really, the first number of goals that we scored in this series, it basically came from the [third or fourth lines]. We haven’t been able to get the other two lines on the scoreboard. Tonight we did and we were able to get a victory.”