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Five reasons Islanders advanced to second round

Greiss, Tavares, special teams among reasons New York moving on

by Brian Compton @BComptonNHL / Deputy Managing Editor

NEW YORK -- The New York Islanders have advanced in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 1993 after defeating the Florida Panthers in the Eastern Conference First Round in six games.

Sparked by the play of goaltender Thomas Greiss and captain John Tavares, the Islanders won three of four games in overtime, including Tavares' series-clinching goal in the second overtime of Game 6 on Sunday.

Here are five reasons the Islanders advanced to the second round:

1. Goaltending: There were questions entering the series as to whether Greiss was capable of being a No. 1 goaltender in the playoffs, but he was fantastic throughout. Greiss made more than 40 saves three times in the series, including 41 on Sunday, and finished with 1.79 goals-against average and .944 save percentage. 

"You need goaltending, and he came up big for us," coach Jack Capuano said. "There's no doubt."

2. The captain: Tavares scored the game-tying goal with less than one minute left in the third period of Game 6, then sent the Islanders to the second round of the playoffs with another goal midway through double overtime. He had five goals and four assists in the series. Tavares was everything the Islanders hoped they were getting when he was selected No. 1 in the 2009 NHL Draft.

"When you've got a player like John Tavares, he scores big goals for us and pushes us forward," left wing Matt Martin said.

3. Special teams: Winning a playoff series normally boils down to goaltending and special teams, and the Islanders had the advantage in both against Florida. Their power play clicked at 25 percent over the course of the series, which featured Alan Quine's double-overtime goal in Game 5. The penalty kill, which was among the best in the NHL all season, had an 86.7 percent success rate.

Video: NYI@FLA, Gm5: Quine wins game with PPG in double OT

4. Offense from defense: The Islanders didn't consistently get contributions on the scoresheet from their defensemen during the regular season, but they did against Florida. Thomas Hickey scored in overtime in Game 3, and rookie Ryan Pulock had a goal and two assists before sustaining an upper-body injury in Game 4. Nick Leddy had three assists in the series and was responsible for the rush that led to Tavares' tying goal in Game 5.

5: Learning from last year: Throughout the series players talked about how they had to build on what they experienced in 2015 when they lost a hard-fought series against the Washington Capitals that ended with a thud in Game 7 when the Islanders had 12 shots on goal. Their resiliency showed throughout against the Panthers, battling back in three of their four wins.

"It's just the maturity of our young players and how they've grown as a group," Capuano said. "That's what it's about, and that's what you want to see."

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