The majority of players in Game 5 between the Islanders and Panthers were feeling the fatigue of 95 minutes of hockey. But not John Tavares. The Islanders captain drew his second penalty of double overtime, the latter ultimately giving the Islanders a 3-2 series lead. Tavares continued to be one of the strongest skaters on the ice and forced Derek MacKenzie into taking a slashing call with five minutes left in the period. With the penalty winding down, the Islanders moved the puck around the perimeter before Marek Zidlicky, playing in his first game of the series, found Alan Quine at the top of the right circle. The rookie beat Roberto Luongo short side for his first career Stanley Cup Playoffs goal, and gave the Islanders their first Game 5 win in their last 11 tries.
While Quine will get the headlines, it was Thomas Greiss who deserves the credit. After a handful of shaky starts, the Islanders netminder stopped 47 of 48 shots and looked very confident in net. Most notably, following Calvin deHaan‘s penalty in the crease, Greiss stopped the Panthers’ Aleksander Barkov on a penalty shot during the first overtime. He also stopped a handful of odd-man rushes during both overtime periods, continuing to give his team a chance to steal a victory.
Game 5 featured a couple new faces for both teams as Jack Capuano and Gerard Gallant searched for the perfect combinations. Capuano added Zidlicky to the line up in place of the injured Ryan Pulock who is out 1-2 weeks with an upper body injury. In a more surprising move, forward Ryan Strome was scratched for veteran Steve Bernier. The Panthers were able to add another one of their young stars in Vincent Trocheck who returned from injury.
Frans Nielsen opened the scoring for New York, putting the Islanders up 1-0 with 7 minutes remaining in the first period. This was the first time in the series that the Islanders did not concede the first goal. Nielsen began the zone entry but ultimately it was defenseman Thomas Hickey who got a shot off towards Luongo. Nielsen, crashing the net, was able to put home the rebound for his third of the playoffs.
It was Game 4’s hero, Alex Petrovic who set up the Panthers lone goal. Following a stretch of pressure from the home team, Petrovic found Barkov at the far post who redirected the puck into the empty net to tie the game at 1.
If the Islanders can continue to get great goaltending from Greiss, with the magic of John Tavares, they can go far. They return to Brooklyn on Sunday to try to close out the series and face the resting Tampa Bay Lightning. However, the back and forth nature of this series suggests not to count on anything more than John Tavares doing everything he can do to carry his team forward.