UNIONDALE, N.Y. — Unofficially, New York Islanders dynamo Mathew Barzal had the puck on his stick for 54 consecutive seconds in overtime.
To Golden Knights defenseman Nate Schmidt, it seemed much longer.
“It felt like an eternity,” Schmidt said.
Schmidt turned in a remarkable shift against the speedy Barzal in overtime of the Knights’ eventual 3-2 loss to New York on Thursday.
He chased and hounded and pestered and didn’t give an inch as the Islanders’ leading scorer probed for an opening that wasn’t there during 3-on-3 play.
— YeSUV🚙 (@IslesWhiteSUV) December 6, 2019
“That is very satisfying as a defenseman, especially since that’s your matchup, right?” Schmidt said. “He’s an excellent player. He’s got a lot of moves to his game. He’s very shifty. He’s seen corkscrewing guys into the ice many times, and for me, at the end of it, it felt like it was five minutes long.”
Barzal gained possession a little more than 30 seconds into the overtime and went to work, patiently stickhandling near the blue line. His first two attempts to drive to the net were cut off by Schmidt, and Barzal retreated back to center ice.
After building up a head of steam, Barzal carried the puck back into the zone and was forced to circle the net by Schmidt. He hit the brakes but couldn’t ditch Schmidt and regrouped in the neutral zone for the second time.
Barzal eventually gave up trying to get around Schmidt and released the puck to Josh Bailey with about 3:30 remaining before heading to the bench. The scene was reminiscent of Schmidt’s work against Winnipeg’s Mark Scheifele during the 2018 Western Conference Final.
“It was two good skaters,” Knights coach Gerard Gallant said. “Barzal’s a talented hockey player, and when Nate plays his best hockey, he can skate with anybody.”
Schmidt remained on the ice and blocked a shot by New York’s Derick Brassard, which led to a scoring chance for Mark Stone at the other end. Schmidt did his best to join the rush but his legs wouldn’t allow it.
“The extra jump at the end when I tried to catch up with Stoney, I think I might have roasted my boosters for the next couple minutes,” Schmidt said. “It’s fun, though. That’s what you like.”
In all, Schmidt’s shift lasted 1:21, though he didn’t play the rest of the overtime. And without Schmidt defending, Barzal’s wizardry with the puck eventually wore down the Knights.
Forward Jonathan Marchessault couldn’t stay with Barzal on his next shift and took a tripping penalty with 1:50 remaining in overtime.
The Islanders scored the winner 10 seconds later when the Knights’ penalty killers all were caught in the corner and New York defenseman Ryan Pulock waltzed down the slot before beating goaltender Malcolm Subban from point-blank range.
“He’s a nice player,” Schmidt said of Barzal. “For me, I love that, because that’s what you want. You want that matchup. You want to be able go out and test yourself against one of the best players one-on-one in the league.”