Orpik, Martin, Vokoun unlikely Penguins heroes

Sunday, 05.12.2013 / 12:09 AM
Tal Pinchevsky  - NHL.com Staff Writer

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- When the top-seeded Pittsburgh Penguins started their Eastern Conference Quarterfinals series against the eighth-seeded New York Islanders, it was their world-class collection of stars that was supposed to carry them to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time in three years.

But it became apparent early in this series it was Pittsburgh's lesser-known players who would lead the charge.

Whether it was defenseman Douglas Murray's two goals in three games, or rookie Beau Bennett scoring the game-winner in Game 1, Pittsburgh found major contributions coming from unlikely sources.

That was especially the case in the Penguins' series-clinching, 4-3 overtime win in Game 6 Saturday.

Trailing much of the night, it was a goal from Paul Martin that tied the game with 5:16 remaining in regulation before Brooks Orpik won it 7:49 into OT. Entering the postseason, the two stay-at-home defensemen had combined for 30 points in 127 playoff games. Martin's tying goal was his second postseason tally since 2008, and Orpik's winner was his first goal since Nov. 21, 2011 and the first playoff marker of his nine-year career.

"It felt great. I'm definitely not a goal-scorer; it's been a long time between goals," Orpik said. "I obviously do other things to try to help the team win. That's not what I look for, but it's always a good feeling -- especially in that situation."

On a team featuring All-Stars Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, James Neal and Jarome Iginla, Martin and Orpik wouldn't ever be relied on to help this team offensively. Even Penguins coach Dan Bylsma was caught off guard by the duo's contributions in Game 6.

"I didn't anticipate a goal from Paul Martin at the blue line with no one in front being the way we would get the [tying] goal," Bylsma said. "Before the game, it's not uncommon to pick guys who might score in the game. I don't think anyone had Paul Martin and Brooks Orpik."

Martin and Orpik were some of the least likely names to help carry the Penguins into the second round, but they definitely weren't the only ones. Orpik's game-winner was set up by a pinpoint pass from behind the net by Tyler Kennedy, who scored the game-winner in Game 5 after sitting out the first four games as a healthy scratch. Playing on a line with Brandon Sutter and Matt Cooke much of the night, Kennedy was a constant source of energy and provided key offensive contributions since being inserted into the lineup.

But the true star of Game 6 may have been the man absolutely no one expected would impact this series when it started May 1: goaltender Tomas Vokoun. Named the starter after backing up Marc-Andre Fleury for the first four games, Vokoun made countless big saves for the Penguins and provided stability in net that was lacking.

Vokoun made 31 saves for the shutout win in Game 5, and he was particularly sharp in Game 6, stopping 35 of 38 shots for consecutive wins, his first in the playoffs since 2007.

"There were some pretty scary moments and [Vokoun] was really strong. In the third period when we were pushing, we gave up some good scoring chances and he made two gigantic saves for us," Bylsma said. "Those were huge saves, allowed us to eventually tie it and get the game-winner. He played an outstanding game."

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