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Taub: The kids shined the brightest for the Islanders in game four victory

The one thing the Islanders had going for them into this postseason was that they were a veteran-laiden team. A battle-tested squad full of players who had now been through what it takes to go far in the playoffs. But no one had any thought to talk about the youth that had been injected into their group and the impact they had during the regular season and how that could help them in a series.

Well now everyone should be on notice, including the Pittsburgh Penguins.

For it was on Saturday afternoon, that youth, the two fantastic rookies — Ilya Sorokin and Oliver Wahlstrom— stole the show and helped the Islanders even their first round series with a convincing 4-1 win.

Sorokin, who became the first Islanders’ rookie netminder in franchise history to win his first two postseason starts, was locked in from the start. He stopped 29 of 30 Pittsburgh shots, and one of those crucial saves came again on Sidney Crosby with the game still scoreless early in the middle frame.

“The big characteristic is his quickness, laterally side-to-side, some of the saves he’s made are amazing,” said Jordan Eberle of Sorokin after the win. To have poise and his confidence back there, just his calmness, he’s made big saves for us and he’s done it all year.”

As Eberle pointed out, the 25-year-old Russian was fantastic in the regular season. It was also the case when he didn’t flinch after having to be thrown right into the fire to start game one last Sunday after starter Semyon Varlamov was unable to play. Sorokin played a huge role in the Isles stealing that win in game one. Varlamov came back for games two and three, but looked less than crisp especially in the latter contest, giving head coach Barry Trotz no choice but to go back to his rookie backup.

The decision paid off handsomely.

“We saw that he’s dialed in so we had to be dialed in too,” Trotz added in the postgame.

READ MORE: Mandell: In-game changes helped Barzal thrive in Islanders’ game four win

Sorokin himself said he enjoyed the game and the moment. Wahlstrom can probably say the same.

His power play goal — the first playoff tally of his career — wasn’t the prettiest, but it was the dagger in the Penguins and blew the roof off the Coliseum. Wahlstrom also registered an assist on Ryan Pulock’s goal to make it 2-0.

Wahlstrom, just like his rookie teammate, seemed ready to go from the get-go and was one of the best players for the Isles all game long. The postseason stage hasn’t seemed to faze the 20-year-old one iota. He was excellent as was his line with J.G. Pageau and Kyle Palmieri in the opening game and he was noticeable in both losses prior to yesterday’s win. Trotz has seen what he’s liked from him, which is a great sign moving forward the rest of the series. Saturday might have been his best game of the playoffs thus far.

Some of the other standout performances from yesterday came from Brock Nelson, Pulock and Mathew Barzal. But overall, game four’s win belonged to the kids. And now a potential series-defining game looms tomorrow night in Pittsburgh.

The Isles will need a repeat of what they got from Wahlstrom and Sorokin — who will no doubt get the nod in goal, that’s not up for discussion — yesterday if they are to come back home for game six Wednesday with a shot to advance.

They were the stars of the show. They shined the brightest.

 

 

Follow Rob on Twitter at @RTaub_

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