Any Islander fan would tell you they were a bit nervous when they heard rookie Ilya Sorokin was getting the net for game one yesterday. And why not? Sorokin was about to take on his first-ever postseason game in his NHL career, on the road nonetheless.
Except, no one told him that.
Sorokin made a total of 39 saves during the Isles’ 4-3 overtime win over the Pittsburgh Penguins to grab a 1-0 series lead. Not only did he earn a win in his debut, but he also made a number of remarkable saves including bouncing a puck off his helmet. His toe stop on Sidney Crosby was a highlight reel moment.
Ilya Sorokin: What a save on Crosby pic.twitter.com/Ee5rPfLEzt
— Rob Taub (@RTaub_) May 16, 2021
Islanders head coach Barry Trotz told Sorokin he was getting the nod Saturday night with starter Semyon Varlamov dealing with a nagging injury, and his impulsive decision paid off big.
“I was really impressed (with Sorokin),” Trotz said in the postgame. “Obviously he made a couple of huge saves. He made a toe save on Sid on the power play the one time. I thought he was really sharp on a power play late in the second period. We had to get through that 2-1 game. If we don’t kill that power off I think we’re probably not sitting here as winning the first game.”
The 25-year-old had played in big games before in his native Russia, but the Stanley Cup playoffs are an entirely different animal, especially for first-year players. But Sorokin didn’t flinch even when things heated up. He really got his money’s worth in the second period when the ice was tilted towards the Pens’ favor, In the opening minutes of the period, he denied a deflection by Evan Rodrigues and then he was able to slide over to make the sprawled-out save on Teddy Blueger’s attempt.
“He kept us in it,” said Kyle Palmieri. Just before Palmieri won the game in overtime, Sorokin had made a huge stop on Jeff Carter on a prime opportunity. “He’s not the biggest guy but you see it every day in practice – how hard he plays and how hard he competes on the puck. For a goalie to give us a chance to win on the road and in game one, that’s all you can ask for. He played a great game tonight.”
Sorokin could very well get the call for game two if Trotz continues to be cautious with Varlamov. Varlamov is expected to return to 100 percent for game two on Tuesday night. But after Sunday, there is more confidence in him to hold down the net. And if that win turns out to be the only postseason appearance for Sorokin, it was one no one will forget. He lived up to all the hype that has been surrounding him since he arrived last summer.
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