Following his first playoff appearance in Game 1, Ilya Sorokin came within 2 minutes and 35 seconds of a shutout in Game 4 and proved himself to be the kryptonite for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Making a total of 48 saves on Monday night during the Islanders 3-2 win over the Penguins, Sorokin became the first rookie goalie in franchise history to win each of his first three NHL playoff appearances in his career. His astounding performance undoubtedly guided the Islanders to take the lead over the Pens for the first time in the series.
“Ilya was playing great, just a real backbone for us,” Josh Bailey said after scoring the game-winning goal in double overtime. “He gave us some confidence that he was going to get the job done and we just had to stick with it.“
Including making 48 saves on 50 shots, Sorkin tallied a 1.00 HDSV% (9 saves on 9 shots), earned a .977 SV% and saved 1.85 goals above expected at 5on5 according to Natural Stat Trick. The rookie effectively earned his spot in the starting lineup over Semyon Varlamov, who struggled in both Game 2 and Game 3.
Saving shots early on from Jason Zucker and Freddy Gaudreau, Sorokin allowed the Islanders offense some time to gain momentum. Following Evgeni Malkin’s power play goal in the first period, Anthony Beauvillier took advantage of the Pens’ defense getting caught in the Isles end to tie it up 1-1 to conclude the first period.
Sorokin was vital again in the middle frame, as he faced 20 shots only allowing one to get by him. The rookie was seen sprawling out in front of the crease during an odd-man rush from Brandon Tanev, and showed up big saving shots from Malkin and Jake Guentzel.
The Isles finally got their offensive momentum going in the third period, as Eberle quickly nailed a shot past Tristan Jarry. As Sorokin continued to make critical stops and denied the Penguins’ chance at gaining a series lead once again, the Islanders were able to force overtime.
Ilya Sorokin pic.twitter.com/9gucmdreHR
— Rob Taub (@RTaub_) May 25, 2021
The most daunting moment of the content quickly came in the first OT. Sorokin was merely in the right place at the right time to save a tip off of Gaudreau to keep the Isles in the game. However, Josh Bailey took the victory for the Islanders less than a minute into the second overtime with a snap shot that left Jarry stunned.
The Penguins overall managed to outshoot the Isles by a 50-28 margin and the percentage of expected goals-for were in their favor the entire game, but Sorokin didn’t let up once.
“It’s impressive for his first year how calm he is back there, especially in a game like tonight in Pittsburgh and with the crowd on him,” Jordan Eberle said. “He stands tall.”
It’s safe to say that there aren’t many doubts for this rookie going forward. Heading back to the Nassau Coliseum for Game 6 with a 3-2 lead, Sorokin is expected to start between the pipes once again for the Islanders. His chant in Russia might even make its way to New York, as the rookie goaltender has the ultimate chance to extend his playoff victory streak and send the Pittsburgh Penguins home.
“Outstanding,” Head coach Barry Trotz said of Sorokin. “You can use all the [words] you wanna write. They all apply. He gave us a chance. Our first two periods weren’t pretty, and he allowed us a chance to hang around. It all goes up front on Ilya. We don’t have a chance if he doesn’t have an outstanding game.”
Sorokin’s breakout playoff performance so far is more than enough to classify him as an elite goaltender, and he has the power to shatter any expectations that come his way. Already breaking a franchise record in his first, this surely won’t be his last performance of greatness.
Follow Dani on Twitter at @daniraemohr