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The New York Islanders have rarely enjoyed leads in the first four games of their first-round matchup against the Panthers. In Game 5 on Friday night in Florida, they grabbed a 1–0 advantage on a goal by Frans Nielsen at 13:31 of the first period and made it stand up until Aleksander Barkov (with a secondary feed by that wily old graybeard Jaromir Jagr) erased it at 1:59 of the third. And so it wasn't until the wee hours of Saturday morning that rookie forward Alan Quine, a late call-up from the AHL’s Bridgeport Sound Tigers, scored the first postseason goal of his NHL career, in double overtime, to give New York a pivotal 2–1 win and 3-2 series lead heading back to Brooklyn for Game 6 on Sunday.
The Islanders, who haven't won a series since 1993, had lost their last 11 Game 5’s, but in the second longest contest in franchise history, they may have finally turned the tide of their long history of postseason futility.
Here are three thoughts on Friday’s game:
Frantic pace to start
Game 5 tiebreakers are often decisive in a series but early on it was difficult to determine who would gain the advantage in this one. Both teams traded multiple chances through a frantically paced first period. Panthers defenseman Michael Matheson, who led all skaters with six shots on goal, had a great opportunity foiled by Islanders goalie Thomas Greiss, who continued his quietly solid play. After Nielsen opened the scoring with his third goal of the series, the Islanders dominated the rest of the period. It was the first time in this series that they had scored first. And for a team that held the lead for only 7% of the time, it was an important strike.
Missed chances by the Panthers
The Islanders have been playing with fire throughout the series, allowing the Panthers to dominate in both chances and possession for large stretches. After the second period, it looked as if Greiss was going to channel his inner Michal Neuvirth and play the hero as he kept Florida off the score sheet during a flurry of chances by the determined Panthers. You could almost sense the Cats’ frustration as they couldn’t bury one. According to War on Ice, Florida registered 15 scoring chances in the second period to New York’s six.
The Panthers eventually found the back of the net when Barkov tallied off a phenomenal pass from Game 4 hero Alex Petrovic in the third period. It was only the second goal so far by their top line (Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau and Jagr), which has launched 64 shots during the series, but Greiss refused to crack again and that was the difference.
Alan Quine, OT hero
There was no shortage of drama in overtime, including Barkov taking only the third OT penalty shot in Stanley Cup Playoffs history. He telegraphed a backhander and Greiss had no difficulty making the easy save. That first extra period began to drag as it went on and you got the sense that an ugly goal by an unlikely hero would ultimately end the game. Jagr took a sloppy tripping penalty to send the Islanders to the power play in double OT and surely, that had to be the golden opportunity. But no.
It wasn't until the Islanders' second power play of the early morning—thanks to a slashing call on Florida's Derek MacKenzie—that this marathon came to an end. Joining the legendary likes of David Volek, who toppled Mario Lemieux's two-Cup Penguins dynasty in overtime back in 1993, Alan Quine, a 23-year old rookie forward playing in just his sixth NHL game, put a one-timer past Roberto Luongo to give New York a 3-2 series lead. Riding a crest of emotion, the Islanders now head for home with a chance close out a tough opponent and avoid returning to Sunrise for another coin-toss of a contest.