Penguins to face Ottawa after rallying to oust Islanders in Game 6 thriller
May 12, 2013 4:00 PM
Penguins teammates congratulate goaltender Tomas Vokoun after defeating the Islanders in overtime.
By Dave Molinari Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
UNIONDALE. N.Y. -- Brooks Orpik was not the most unlikely overtime hero Saturday night at Nassau Coliseum.
Backup goalies Marc-Andre Fleury and Kevin Poulin were even less likely to score the game-deciding goal. Probably. Well, maybe.
Didn't matter, though, because it was Orpik -- not Sidney Crosby or John Tavares, Evgeni Malkin or Kyle Okposo -- who ended Game 6, to say nothing of the Penguins' first-round series against the New York Islanders, by beating goalie Evgeni Nabokov from the left point at 7:49 of the extra period.
It didn't take much research to determine that it was the biggest playoff goal of Orpik's career, since he hadn't gotten any in the previous 77 postseason games.
That didn't matter much, either.
"Big goal by [Orpik]," winger Pascal Dupuis said. "A guy who was keeping his goal for the playoffs, I guess. For a big moment."
And there wasn't a bigger one in the series.
"I'm definitely not a goal-scorer," he said. "That's not what I'm looked [to] for."
True enough, but his goal was what the Penguins needed to lock up their first series win since an opening-round decision against Ottawa in 2010 and to launch them into a Round 2 matchup with the Senators.
The Penguins will have home-ice advantage in that series, the dates of which have not been announced.
The Penguins swept the regular-season series from the Senators and have won two of three previous meetings in the playoffs, most recently in 2010.
New York dominated play much of the night, as reflected by its 38-21 advantage in shots.
If not for some strong work by goalie Tomas Vokoun and the Penguins' penalty-killers, who snuffed all three Islanders chances with the extra man, there might have been a Game 7 tonight at Consol Energy Center.
"There were some huge saves [by Vokoun], especially later in the third there, when they were already up one, that gave us a chance to tie it," winger Jarome Iginla said.
The Islanders actually had three one-goal leads in the game. The Penguins overcame all three and didn't allow New York to get a fourth.
New York's showing, both in Game 6 and the series, made an impression on the Penguins, though.
"They played well," Vokoun said. "They gave us everything we could handle. I'm just glad it's over, and we move on."
This is the first time in four tries the Penguins have won a series against the Islanders and for a lot of the game, it looked as if this one would go the distance, just as the previous three had.
Tavares beat Vokoun from near the right hash at 5:36 of the opening period to give New York a 1-0 lead, but Iginla got that goal back for the Penguins at 7:59, when he pushed a Sidney Crosby rebound behind Nabokov. That goal gave Iginla a point in every game of the series, tying the personal-best playoff points streak he set in 2004.
The Islanders reclaimed the lead 37 seconds before intermission, as former Penguin Colin McDonald converted a cross-ice feed from Keith Aucoin, only to have the Penguins pull even again when Dupuis drove to the net and steered in a feed from Joe Vitale at 10:59 of the second.
Dupuis had a point in every game of the series, giving him a career-best six-game playoff scoring streak, while Vitale's assist was his first career playoff point.
New York turned a Kris Letang giveaway into its third goal at 2:21 of the third as Aucoin picked off his pass and set up Michael Grabner, alone near the bottom of the right circle.
Paul Martin tied the score again at 14:44, thanks to a sensational effort by Malkin. He carried the puck into the New York end 1-on-4 and went behind the goal line, then slid it to Martin, whose shot from the left point deflected off Islanders forward Frans Nielsen and eluded Nabokov.
That was the final goal of regulation. The final one until Orpik ended the series by making the most of a feed from Tyler Kennedy.
"He put it on a tee for me," Orpik said.
And Orpik put it into the history books, to the considerable relief of his teammates.
"We needed the win," Vokoun said. "We're glad we don't have to play them [tonight]."