The New York Islanders lived to fight another day after a 2-1 overtime victory against the Nashville Predators on Tuesday night.
Facing elimination from playoff contention, they needed the maximum two points in order to stay in mathematical contention despite the Toronto Maple Leafs holding a seven-point advantage above them for the final spot heading into the night's action.
After Brock Nelson tied the game in the third period, a familiar overtime hero provided the win from an unlikely position.
Normally a defenseman, Thomas Hickey was playing his first-ever NHL game as a left winger due to a litany of injuries among Islander forwards including superstar and captain John Tavares.
After batting down a deflected drop-back pass from Josh Bailey, Hickey snapped a wrister from the top of the circles past the blocker-side pads of Predators goalie Pekka Rinne.
It was his fifth career overtime game-winning tally, adding to a sizeable resume of big-time goals.
Last year saw Hickey score the winner against the Washington Capitals to clinch a second-straight playoff berth. A few weeks later, he delivered the Islanders to a 2-1 series lead in the first round of the postseason with an overtime goal in Game 3 against the Florida Panthers.
Now in his fifth season in the NHL, Hickey has been a lower-pairing defenseman with the Islanders as his size has limited his development into becoming one of the better blue liners in the league.
Listed at 6-feet-tall, which is generous, the 189-pound Hickey relies on more of a cunning game than a physical one, though he rarely shies away from contact. It has made him an above-average puck handler in terms of NHL defensemen, which made him a logical choice at left wing when interim head coach Dough Weight was in a pinch.
"It was cool, it was fun, it was challenging,” Hickey said after the game via Neil Best of Newsday.
More importantly, it has kept the Islanders’ extremely dim postseason hopes alive until at least Thursday when they visit the Carolina Hurricanes, a team they are 1-3 against this season.