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Greiss makes most of opportunity with Islanders

First-time playoff starter outplays Luongo, helps New York to series win against Panthers

by Mike G. Morreale @MikemorrealeNHL / Staff Writer

NEW YORK -- Goaltender Thomas Greiss turned a position in question at the start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs into one of considerable strength for the New York Islanders.

Greiss, 30, was everything the Islanders had hoped he would be when they signed him to a two-year contract on July 1, 2015.

He finished with a 1.79 goals-against average and .944 save percentage in six games against the Florida Panthers in the Eastern Conference First Round. Greiss capped a remarkable series with a 41-save performance in a 2-1 double-overtime victory in Game 6 at Barclays Center on Sunday. The Islanders won the best-of-7 series 4-2 and advanced past the first round for the first time since 1993.

Greiss made 221 saves against 234 shots and stood toe-to-toe with Roberto Luongo, one of the NHL's most respected goaltenders.

"It was tight and there wasn't a lot of room in this series," Luongo said. "[Greiss] played well and I was trying to do the best I could to match that and give my team a chance. It's unfortunate we lost three games in overtime; that's a tough one."

Video: FLA@NYI, Gm6: Greiss snatches Trocheck's shot

Prior to this postseason, Greiss had played in one NHL playoff game, with the San Jose Sharks in 2010. Before signing with the Islanders on the opening day of free agency last summer, Greiss had never played more than 25 games in a season. With New York, he went 23-11-4 with a 2.36 goals-against and .925 save percentage in 41 regular-season games.

When incumbent starter Jaroslav Halak sustained a lower-body injury against the Pittsburgh Penguins on March 8, coach Jack Capuano never wavered in his decision to give Greiss the opportunity of a lifetime.

"It's been great," Greiss said. "You don't get those opportunities too often and when you have the chance, you have to just grab them and play your best and do your best."

Video: FLA@NYI, Gm6: Greiss knocks away Smith's shot

He made 42 saves in a 5-4 win in Game 1, his first NHL playoff start and win, at BB&T Center in Florida. He made 36 saves in a 4-3 overtime win in Game 3, and 47 saves in a 2-1 double-overtime win in Game 5, before his heroics in Game 6 on Sunday.

"You have to tip your hat to [Greiss]," Panthers forward Shawn Thornton said. "He played an unbelievable round."

After allowing a goal to Jonathan Huberdeau on Florida's fifth shot of the game, Greiss stopped the next 37 shots he faced to give the Islanders their chance.

"He played great," Capuano said. "You need great goaltending and good special teams this time of the year. We executed our system and Greiss came up big after they went up 1-0. He kept us in it, gave us a chance and did the job."

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