UNIONDALE, N.Y. – The Islanders did something they haven’t done since April 28, 2002. Win a playoff game at the Nassau Coliseum.
New York beat the Penguins 6-4, in a game that became an offensive shootout with both teams trading goals.
Former Penguin Brian Strait opened up the scoring at the 14:05 mark after the Islanders, again, started off strong, feeding off the sold out crowd.
“That was an unbelievable experience for that to happen early on,” Strait said of the goal. “Obviously it helped confidence wise and it set up the rest of the game. I can’t say enough about how much everybody battled and our resiliency throughout the game. It was fun to be a part of.”
The euphoria over the goal quickly was quickly silenced 45 seconds later. James Neal knotted the game up at one off a set from Evgeni Malkin and Jarome Iginla.
Mark Streit and John Tavares teamed up to put the Islanders back ahead on the power play. Streit blasted a shot that Tavares got a piece of to get by Penguins starter Marc-Andre Fleury. But much like the goal before, Pittsburgh found a way to respond quickly.
This time it was Evgeni Malkin who tied the game back 58 seconds after the Islanders went ahead.
Roughly four minutes later the Penguins captured their first lead of the game. Brendan Sutter scored his first goal of the series at 11:03 to put Pittsburgh up 3-2. Then it was the Islanders turn to respond.
In the waning minutes of the second period Kyle Okposo scored his third goal of the series to tie everything back up. Behind the net, Okposo swung around and threw the puck at the back of Fleury. Remarkable the puck bounced off the Penguin net minder and trickled into the net.
The back and forth continued into the third with Pittsburgh scoring just 41 seconds into the period. However, the resilient Islanders would strike back. Streit scored his first goal of the game four and a half minutes into the final period to once again even the score.
And after that the Islanders did not look back.
John Tavares would wind up scoring what became the game winner and Casey Cizikas put the icing on the cake after sneaking one past Fleury in the game’s final five minutes.
“We bent, but we wouldn’t go away,” Travis Hamonic said of the teams performance after the game. “That’s something that we want to preach in this room that we’re not going to quit. No matter where we are in the series or in the game we’re not going to quit. We’re not going to give up and we’re going to keep coming.”
For the third straight game, the Islanders managed to battle back after falling behind. And for a squad that has had trouble at times in the third period, they have been stellar as of late. Goaltending has stood strong and the team’s resolve has been eye opening.
“All I can say is resiliency,” Strait said. “All season long, all series long, and no matter what happens we’re never rattled. We never waiver from our plan and we just keep pushing forward.”
Team captain Mark Streit noted the heart that teams has shown through the series.
“We show a lot of heart, a lot of character and it’s a learning process,” he explained. “Even in the playoffs. If you’re down one or two goals it stays quiet on the bench and we’re confident. We know we’re going to stick to our game plan and keep working. Eventually we get the scoring chances and a few of our guys scored some big goals. It worked out well tonight”
By winning tonight the Islanders have ensured that there will be a game six and the Penguins will have to come back into the hostile atmosphere of the Nassau Coliseum. For the fans, Tuesday night’s win was the first time they’ve gotten to celebrate a post-season victory in 11 years.
“It’s good,” Kyle Okposo said regarding the team’s first home post-season win in that time frame. “The fans have been waiting to be in the playoffs and to be competitive. We got a playoff win at home, so it feels good.”