There was another first at Barclays Center on Sunday night: an NHL playoff game.
The New York Islanders hosted the Florida Panthers in the first postseason matchup in Brooklyn, a chance for the Islanders to inch closer to winning a playoff series for the first time since 1993.
After a wild second period, in which the Islanders scored three times after trailing 2-0, defenseman Thomas Hickey scored at 12 minutes, 31 seconds of overtime to lift the Islanders to a rousing 4-3 victory and a 2-1 lead in the teams’ best-of-seven first-round Eastern Conference series.
Game 4 is scheduled for Wednesday night in Brooklyn.
The Islanders began the game with the line of Casey Cizikas, Matt Martin and Cal Clutterbuck, and they took the opening faceoff, which raised the decibel levels from the capacity crowd that much higher.
But Florida forward Reilly Smith dampened the crowd’s spirit when he scored his fourth goal in three games at 2:25 of the first period, in which the Panthers outshot the Islanders 12-8.
The second period took on a topsy-turvy feeling similar to the Islanders’ 5-4 win in Game 1. The teams combined for five goals and a dose of controversy.
Smith’s shot early in the middle period ricocheted off the boards behind Islanders goalie Thomas Greiss to Aleksander Barkov at the doorstep. Barkov’s easy tap-in at 1:11 made it 2-0.
The Panthers appeared to go ahead 3-0 at 4:08 when Aaron Ekblad shot the puck past Greiss, but the goal was negated after a coach’s challenge won by the Islanders: Jonathan Huberdeau was offside.
The Islanders then gained a two-man advantage when Alex Petrovic was called for boarding Matt Martin at 4:43 and Jussi Jokinen was sent off for holding at 5:08.
Islanders rookie defenseman Ryan Pulock cashed in quickly, rifling a blast past Panthers goalie Roberto Luongo from the left point at 5:21. The crowd swirled orange towels and chanted, “Yes, yes, yes.”
Nick Bjugstad restored the two-goal margin for the Panthers when he tapped in a rebound at 7:23. Smith, who had assisted on Barkov’s goal, added another assist for his fourth of the series and his eighth point.
But forward Shane Prince — acquired by the Islanders in a deadline deal with Ottawa — scored off a pretty pass from Pulock at 11:48 to narrow the deficit to 3-2.
After Florida defenseman Dmitri Kulikov was penalized for clipping, Frans Nielsen scored another power-play goal with a backhand past Luongo at 16:55 to knot the score at 3-3.
After his team’s morning skate, Islanders forward Kyle Okposo spoke of the anticipated atmosphere for Brooklyn’s first playoff game. Aware of the definite lift that the crowd at Nassau Coliseum, the Islanders’ home on Long Island for 43 years, had provided during taut opening-round series against Pittsburgh in 2013 and Washington in 2015, Okposo played down comparisons.
“It’s a hockey game; it doesn’t matter where we are playing. We’re at Game 3 of the series and we’re focusing on getting a win,” he said. “I think everyone will be pretty charged up.”
Okposo proved correct. The atmosphere rivaled the energy at Nassau.
Outside the arena before the game was a much smaller but spirited version of the festive scene that always surrounded Nassau Coliseum on sunny game days. Sparky the Dragon posed for photos with fans, and the former Islanders star Clark Gillies signed autographs.
Inside, the black seats of Barclays Center were draped with orange towels. Fans started chanting, “Let’s go, Islanders,” as the team skated out for warm-ups wearing traditional blue and orange sweaters.
Four large white banners were unfurled over center ice during a pregame show as the Stanley Cups won by the Islanders from 1980 to 1983 were honored as the crowd roared.
The Panthers, who won the Atlantic Division with 103 points, have their own postseason bugaboos. They have not won a series since 1996, when they reached the Stanley Cup finals in their third season of existence.