Game five of the New York Islanders series with the Pittsburgh Penguins was dominated by the latter, especially in the shots on goal department, but it was the Islanders who emerged victorious thanks to some terrific play by rookie goaltender Ilya Sorokin and Barry Trotz’s bend but don’t break system.
The Islanders offense looked very similar to the group that fans groaned about over the final few weeks of the season, but fortunately this team is built for playoff hockey. By that I mean they play strong defense and have elite goaltending. The defensive group overall did a decent job preventing great scoring chances. Sorokin also did a fantastic job showing up when the rest of the team didn’t, making multiple saves from point-blank range, including one on Bryan Rust in the first period.
Sorokin bails out Mayfield pic.twitter.com/Qf8WCLzHZk
— Rob Taub (@RTaub_) May 24, 2021
One of the biggest stories of the game is how significant the Islanders were outshot, 50-28. Not only that, but the Penguins seemed to be in the Islanders zone constantly.
Ilya Sorokin pic.twitter.com/9gucmdreHR
— Rob Taub (@RTaub_) May 25, 2021
It isn’t often when there aren’t a lot of positives after a playoff win. Outside of the win itself, all we can really say is that they did just enough, especially through the first two periods where they only mustered 14 shots while the Penguins fired on Sorokin’s cage. Even with that disparity, they only trailed 2-1 heading into the third period.
“Once we scored that [third period] goal [from Eberle], I felt pretty good about our team,” Trotz said in the postgame. “It was one of those nights, where when we got it tied up and it went to overtime I was thinking that this was going to be our night.”
With that said, Mathew Barzal and Jordan Eberle weren’t nearly as explosive as they were in game three when Kyle Palmieri jumped up to their line in Komorov’s place. The entire team struggled to generate offense.
The defense didn’t have a great game, but ultimately they found a way to prevent the Penguins from getting more great scoring chances, which is crucial in the playoffs. Adam Pelech stood out amongst the Islanders defensemen were by taking away Jake Guentzel. Through the entirety of game five, Pelech refused to give Guentzel any space.
It wasn’t pretty — and I’m sure both the fans and players would’ve rather won the game 4-1 again — but this is one of the things that makes this team great. Even without playing their best hockey, they were still able to grab a road win in the playoffs against a top seed.
“It’s an amazing feeling,” forward Pageau told the media after the win. “There’s one thing I know about this group of guys and it’s we left it all out there.”
Now, the Islanders will have a chance to close the series out on Long Island on Wednesday.
Follow Ben on Twitter at @BenMandell55