Thomas Greiss entered the playoffs with nearly no playoff experience, but after backstopping the Islanders to a 2-1 overtime win over the Florida Panthers in Game 5, he proved he’s ready for the big stage.
Alan Quine scored the overtime winner at 16:00 of the second overtime, also the second-longest game in Islanders history, but the win belonged to Greiss, who was excellent in stopping 47-of-48 saves, giving the Islanders a 3-2 series lead.
“It’s one of those games where the puck just finds you,” the Islanders goalie said after the game.
Greiss looked like a grizzled playoff vet on Friday, showing poise and making save after save as the Panthers peppered the Islanders through 96 minutes of hockey. In perhaps the biggest moment of his professional career -- a penalty shot overtime of a pivotal Game 5 in a deadlocked series -- Greiss stood tall, knocking Aleksander Barkov’s backhand aside, keeping the Islanders alive.
“He was huge for us tonight, big saves all night,” Frans Nielsen said. “It definitely gives you a little momentum when he saves a penalty shot."
Jack Capuano has consistently praised Greiss’ conditioning and it showed in the second overtime, when he stopped Alex Petrovic twice on the doorstep to keep the game going into Saturday. Despite playing 90 minutes of hockey, he had a smile on his face and didn’t look to be fazed by the pressure.
As Nielsen said, his teammates fed off it and also gave up everything to protect their net. Travis Hamonic had a potential game-saving moment of his own in the first overtime, breaking up a Panthers’ two-on-one and clearing the puck out of the crease.
“We had to fight for it,” said Frans Nielsen, who took his lumps from Vincent Trocheck in overtime. “They were playing well and we spent a lot of time in our own end. The guys are paying the price, blocking shots, clearing the puck from in front of Greiss. Whatever it takes. I’m proud of the way we are fighting out there.”
With the net well-insulated, the Islanders knew they had to dig deep and pull it out for their goaltender. John Tavares drew his second penalty of the second overtime, giving the Islanders the break they were looking for. Quine – who was playing in Bridgeport two weeks ago – one timed a pass from Marek Zidlicky – who made his series debut – past Roberto Luongo (40 saves), a surreal moment and one that will live in Islanders’ yore.
“That was the longest game I’ve played, but the guys showed that we can battle through games like that. It was fun being in the dog pile. It was worth it,” Quine said. “Everyone knew they had to dig deep and we did.”
Quine’s goal helped the Islanders win their first Game 5 since 1987, but again, Greiss had to be very good for the Islanders to get to that point. The goalie deserved a healthy amount of the credit for the Islanders having a 1-0 lead in the first period and holding the Panthers off the scoresheet until early in the third period. His memorable stops early included sliding and squaring up on Aaron Ekblad in the second and robbing Michael Matheson on a point-blank chance in the first.
Luongo also deserved credit on Friday, his stubbornness prolonging Game 5 past one overtime period. The Islanders had their chances, namely throwing the puck on net from all angles and crashing hard. As Thomas Hickey said after his overtime winner in Game 3, there are no bad shots in overtime. Quine, who was just looking to get it on net, concurred.
“Zidlicky made a nice feed over to me and I was just trying to get it on net,” Quine said. “I heard post and then I saw the guys celebrating.”
In the early stages of Friday’s marathon, the Islanders flipped the script on the Panthers, scoring the opening goal for the first time in the series. Frans Nielsen broke the ice at 13:31 of the first period, burying a rebound after Luongo made a pair of stops on Nielsen and Hickey.
The score stayed the same until 1:59 of the third period, when Barkov solved Greiss on the Panthers’ 27th shot, tapping in a backdoor feed from Petrovic at 1:59 of the third period, tying the game at one. The Islanders challenged the call, arguing Vincent Trocheck was offside, but the goal stood after a brief review.
“There were a lot of ups and downs out there,” Nielsen said. “You just have to stay with it no matter what happens. I think we did a good job of that tonight.”
The Islanders know that firsthand the ups and downs of a series, but after taking care of business on Friday, they come back home with a chance to close out the series on Sunday night at Barclays Center.
“This is the first time we’re going back with three wins and a chance to close it out at home,” Nielsen said. “Hopefully we’re going to come out and respond the right way.”
Puck drop is at 7 p.m.
GREISS REFLECTS ON ISLANDERS' GAME 5 WIN
QUINE REACTS AFTER SCORING GAME-WINNER IN ISLANDERS' GAME 5 VICTORY
CAPUANO: ISLANDERS HAVE TO FEED OFF THE CROWD IN GAME 6
DE HAAN ON ISLANDERS' GAME 5 WIN: IT'S AN EMOTIONAL ROLLER COASTER
NIELSEN ON ISLANDERS' GAME 5 WIN: WE HAD TO FIGHT FOR IT