The Islanders defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday afternoon with a 4-3 win in overtime, taking the pilot episode of their best-of-seven series. As big of a story that was, however, there was another headline that developed early on and throughout the contest, and it was the guy who wore #21 in white.
Kyle Palmieri, who had just scored two goals in his first 17 regular-season games as an Islander, was considered by many to be an “x-factor” in this series. Sure the scoring stats weren’t necessarily there, but Palmieri was slowly but surely coming into his role in the blue and orange. For Palmieri, a goal-scoring, offensive-driven forward to be thrown into a strict defensive-minded system, it definitely took a toll on the Smithtown, NY native during the home stretch. But as head coach Barry Trotz preached, it would be only a matter of time before Palmieri busted loose. And boy did he pick the perfect time to do so.
With the game was scoreless up until just under the eight-minute mark of the first, that’s when, you guessed it, Palmieri snapped a shot up in the “toy department” (as Butch Goring would say) to put the Isles in front. It was the kind of shot that Isles fans had heard about from Palmieri’s time in New Jersey and were waiting to witness it themselves.
The Beard is back in Town! #Isles pic.twitter.com/vmlXlCV6MK
— IslesBlog (@IslesBlog) May 16, 2021
I’m really glad for [Palmieri],” head coach Barry Trotz said after the win. “I know he probably put a little undue pressure [on himself] when he joined us, we knew when the games got tight and you have to go to the dirty areas a guy like him is able to produce and he was able to do that tonight.”
Outside of his two huge goals, Palmieri and his linemates (Pageau and Wahlstrom) looked fantastic all game long. Zoning in on Palmieri in particular, from a fan’s perspective it was very noticeable and apparent that he was playing with a load of confidence. To put it briefly, he played the style of play that Lou Lamoriello had brought him in for: to create offensive opportunities for both himself and his linemates. It was also Palmieri’s best game as an Islander so far. He was testing Jarry from different angles all day long and from the two goals scored, he also proved he wasn’t afraid to take shots from tough angles.
Palmieri was excited postgame, could you blame him? “We came on the road with a mission,” he said. “We were able to go out there tonight and find a way to get the win.”
That win might prove to be critical for several different reasons. First off, under Barry Trotz the Isles have played in six playoff series, winning the opening game in four of those instances. In those four series, Trotz’s club is 4-0, while holding an 0-2 record in series where the Isles dropped the opening game. Additionally, this game could give Palmieri a massive confidence boost in games going forward, and an added scoring touch to boot. Dating back to the 2014-15 season, Palmieri has just two goals in 21 playoff games… which isn’t great.
That being said, Palmieri has also been known as a streaky scorer, and when he’s on his game, he’s as good as any goal scorer in the NHL. His game one performance solely showed that.
Follow Carter on Twitter @cbentivenga14