With Fans in Full Voice, Islanders Upset Penguins
The Islanders arrived at the Nassau Coliseum on Wednesday with the opportunity to claim a playoff victory at their home home for the first time since 1993.
A noisy home crowd – with arena capacity increased to 9,000 for Game 6 versus 6,800 earlier in the series – was an added bonus and the Islanders didn’t disappoint.
A flip-flop tipped the Islanders’ path midway through the second period when Brock Nelson and Ryan Pulock scored 13 seconds apart, giving the Islanders a one-goal lead over the Pittsburgh Penguins. Nelson scored again three minutes later to cement a 5-3 win. The fourth-seeded Islanders surprised the East Division winners Penguins to close the first-round series with three straight wins. The Islanders will continue their playoff run against the Boston Bruins in their final season at the Coliseum.
Rookie goalie Ilya Sorokin – who won all four games he started in his first playoff series – made 34 saves for the final victory. He’s stopped 27 of the 28 shots he’s faced in the past two periods, including a denial from Evgeni Malkin on a breakaway. The stop spawned cascading chants of “Ilya, Ilya” from the Colosseum crowd and summed up the series: the frustration of the penguins and the composed performance of the islanders.
“The crowd was loud – they were loud,” Nelson said. “They gave us a helping hand. We wanted to win this one in front of them.
Josh Bailey’s Game 5 double overtime winner on Monday in Pittsburgh had inspired fans as the chance to advance was just around the corner. The team hadn’t won a series on Long Island since a six-game win over the Washington Capitals in April 1993, although they won a series in 2016 while playing at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
Each team scored twice in the first half. Penguins center Jeff Carter scored his fourth goal of the series just 1 minute 27 seconds into the game before Anthony Beauvillier sent the crowd into a frenzy at 5:16 when he knocked down the puck in front Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry.
Jake Guentzel gave the visitors the lead at 11:12 with a power play goal while Islanders defenseman Scott Mayfield sat in the penalty box for a double check against Malkin.
But Kyle Palmieri, one of the Devils Islanders’ end-of-season acquisitions, rebounded in front of Jarry at 12:25, tying again and scoring his third goal of the series.
Travis Zajac, also acquired from the Devils, made his series debut replacing Oliver Wahlstrom, who was injured in Game 5. Zajac and Jean-Gabriel Pageau, who had two points, assisted on Pulock’s goal.
“The Pageau, Palmieri, Zajac line was great,” said coach Barry Trotz. “These are the acquisitions that we have made, these are the type of players that match the mentality of the Islanders. “
The Penguins entered the third period on the power play after a contested decision against Pulock late in the second. But Penguins captain Sidney Crosby’s shot from the post was as close as Pittsburgh got.
The stars of the Penguins had limited impact in the series. Malkin had five points, but missed Games 1 and 2 with an injury. Crosby has only collected two points in six games.
The Islanders entered the competition with history on their side.
They came in 11-1 in Games 6 as they led a three-game two-way series. And they were 7-2 in the playoffs against Pittsburgh under coach Barry Trotz, including a 3-1 record at the Nassau Coliseum.
Fans relish one last chance for the playoffs on their intimate ice rink, which opened in 1972. The team will be moving to their state-of-the-art home in Belmont Park next season, but that can wait until the franchise pursues its first title since. a series of four consecutive championships from 1980 to 1983.
“This is just one step,” Nelson said. “We want to make our own history here at Coli.”
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