UNIONDALE, N.Y. – After the final buzzer the Islanders took one final spin around the ice at Nassau Coliseum, with the fans behind them chanting, “lets go Islanders” and chanting “M-V-P” at Hart Trophy finalist John Tavares.
It was all that was left to do after the Islanders fell to the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-3 in overtime, in a game that ended their season.
“It’s just tough to put into words,” Colin McDonald said after the defeat. “Losing a game like that. Losing a series like that, it’s just tough.”
It was Brooks Orpik who scored 7:49 into the overtime period and ended the Islanders magical run that saw them shock pundits around the league who had given them no chance.
“We took huge strides as an organization,” Islander head coach Jack Capuano said after the game. “Not many people gave us a chance to get where we’ve got and the one thing that I told them is that we got to this point because of our leadership and our character. They put on the line every time they played and we’re extremely proud of the guys.”
Despite eventually losing, it was the Islanders that were the more dominant team. They pressured the Penguins early on and after 5:36 of play in the first period it was New York that struck first. Josh Bailey found John Tavares inside the slot, allowing Tavares to put it past Vokoun.
It was the first the Islanders got past Vokoun in the playoffs.
But, just like in past games, the Penguins quickly responded. Sidney Crosby was able to drive to the net untouched by the Islanders defense. Evgeni Nabokov stopped his initial shot, but Jarome Iginla put the rebound into the net to tie the game at two.
The Islanders would regain the lead with less than a minute to play in the first period. A strong forecheck by Michael Grabner allowed him to move the puck over to Keith Aucoin, who quickly passed it off to a wide-open Colin McDonald to put the Islanders back into the lead.
The second period was another one that started off with strong play from the Islanders. A Brandon Morrow boarding call gave the Isles several scoring chances with the man-advantage, but the home team could not bury them. A penalty called on Radek Martinek gave the Penguins a chance to even the score, but a strong penalty kill by the Islanders prevented that.
However just moments after the penalty ended Pascal Dupuis was able to poke one by Nabokov and tie the game at two.
New York responded again, as Michael Grabner was able to capitalize on a bad turnover by Kris Letang to give the Islanders one more lead. They grasped to that lead as hard as they could, but at the 14:44 mark the Penguins scored another equalizing goal. This time a one-timer from Paul Martin at the blue line. The Islanders looked like the better team in overtime, generating several chances, but it was Orpik who ended their season with a goal at 7:49.
After the game, the Islanders tried to take the loss in stride, but as McDonald had alluded to, it was hard to for some to try and look at the positives from the series.
“I think we’re going to learn a lot about what it takes to be in the playoffs and win in the playoffs,” John Tavares Said after the game. “Obviously it’s still tough to take it all in right now. It’s just disappointing. We wanted to play tomorrow and into June. It just stings right now.”
Captain Mark Streit made similar comments.
“It’s tough right now to find the positives and see all the accomplishments,” he said. “At the end of the day you are out of the playoffs. It was so much fun to play in front of our own fans.”
The Islanders battled, but in the end despite being the better team Saturday night they could not extend the series to a Game 7. But the Islanders made a statement that is certain. Fans, media and even other teams that did not respect the Islanders coming into the series, certainly cannot deny how far this organization has come.
They may not get the chance to play tomorrow, but they sure gave everyone a heck of a ride.