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Tavares scores in double overtime, Islanders advance

Forward has two goals, New York defeats Florida; into second round for first time since 1993

by Mike G. Morreale @MikemorrealeNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

NEW YORK -- New York Islanders captain John Tavares came up big when it mattered most for a franchise starving for a winner.

Tavares scored his second goal of the game 10:41 into the second overtime to give the Islanders a series-clinching 2-1 victory against the Florida Panthers in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference First Round and their first playoff series victory since 1993.

Tavares took a wrist shot low in the right circle that was initially stopped by Roberto Luongo but he picked up the rebound and curled the net before scoring his fifth of the playoffs. The Islanders had lost their past eight playoff series.

"You can't even really process it," Tavares said. "I'm glad it went in because my leg starting cramping in that pile. I'm glad I didn't have to skate back down. It was obviously just amazing to look around and just see all the orange and blue. Just incredible."

The Islanders will play the Tampa Bay Lightning in the second round. The last time the Islanders and Lightning faced each other in the playoffs was in the 2004 Eastern Conference First Round. The Lightning won the series in five games on the way to winning their only Stanley Cup.

Video: FLA@NYI, Gm6: Tavares ties it in 3rd, wins it in 2OT

Luongo, who finished with 49 saves, made 18 saves after regulation before allowing the winner to Tavares.

"When he went to shoot the first one, I took a step out and challenged more, and I think it ricocheted off our guys' stick so I kind of made the save but I was off balance," Luongo said. "I wasn't able to recover for the wraparound so you have to give him credit. He's a [heck] of a player and he pretty much won that series by himself."

Tavares tied the game 1-1 with 53.2 seconds remaining in the third period.

"I can't be more proud of our group, led by our captain," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. "It is fitting he gets the tying goal, and just a great individual play off the rebound in the double overtime."

With goalie Thomas Greiss pulled for an extra attacker, Nikolay Kulemin took a pass from Nick Leddy low in the right circle and took a shot that Luongo failed to control in his pads at the right post. The puck squirted out and remained in the crease behind Luongo when Tavares skated in from the slot and scored.

Video: FLA@NYI, Gm6: Huberdeau goes top-shelf while falling

Left wing Jonathan Huberdeau scored his first career playoff goal to give the Panthers to a 1-0 lead with 1:02 remaining in the first period.

Greiss made 41 saves, including 12 after regulation. The Islanders won three games in overtime in the series, including the last two in double overtime.

"He's huge," Islanders right wing Kyle Okposo said of Greiss. "He was great for us all series. Over the last two games and what he's accomplished, just phenomenal. He's played so well. I'm happy to see him doing well."

In the first overtime, Luongo made 15 saves and Greiss stopped eight. Greiss stopped a slap shot from the point by Aleksander Barkov with 10:18 left. Luongo denied a wrist shot from the left circle by Brock Nelson off a 2-on-1 with Shane Prince with 7:23 left. Islanders Game 5 hero Alan Quine nearly ended the game with 2:51 remaining when his wrist shot from the left circle just deflected off the glove of Luongo and into the right corner.

Video: FLA@NYI, Gm6: Isles' defense comes to Greiss' aid

The Panthers have lost their last eight playoff overtime games, dating to a 1-0 triple-overtime loss against the Colorado Avalanche in Game 4 of the 1996 Stanley Cup Final.

The Panthers killed a penalty to Huberdeau for cross-checking with 7:23 remaining in the third. Luongo made three saves on the Islanders advantage, stopping Tavares and a two quick attempts by Brock Nelson. Luongo later denied a quick wrist shot by Kulemin with his blocker despite being screened with 5:14 left in the third.

With the exception of the last-minute, empty-net goal by Panthers defenseman Dmitry Kulikov in Game 2, every game in the series was decided by a goal.

"We've gone through some dark days together," Islanders forward Matt Martin said. "There's a big group of us that have been a part of a 25-game losing streak and being the laughingstock of the League. A lot of negative media around us. Just to kind of go through all of this together, we obviously got some key additions last season with [Nick] Leddy and [Johnny] Boychuk, and Greiss was unbelievable in net for us.

Video: FLA@NYI, Gm6: Tavares on his series-clinching goal

"It feels good to do it together, especially after last season's loss in Game 7. [Islanders general manager] Garth Snow and [Capuano] and the coaching staff stuck to their guns and believed in us. We couldn't be happier right now."

Luongo made seven saves in the first period when the Islanders generated as much pressure 5-on-5 as they have at any point in the series. The Islanders held a 26-14 advantage in shot attempts in the first, including 11 that were blocked. 

Greiss, who made 47 saves in a 2-1 double overtime win in Game 5 on Friday, stopped Kulikov on a rebound with 4:43 left in the second to keep the Islanders within a goal.

"It's a good feeling for these guys that have paid their dues, that have struggled the first couple of years they were here as a young group," Capuano said. "Now to see them succeed and move on and have a chance in the second round."

Video: FLA@NYI, Gm6: Greiss lays out, stifles the shot

Florida forward Jaromir Jagr played in his 208th career playoff game to tie Wayne Gretzky for 16th on the all-time list.

"It was close; I thought we got it there when there was one minute left," Jagr said. "[Vincent Trocheck] was close to scoring into an empty net. But maybe a loss like this is what this team needs to move higher next year."

The Panthers were without center Nick Bjugstad, who sustained an upper-body injury in Game 5.

Islanders forward Josh Bailey played 4:24 of the first but did not return.

Video: Tavares nets GWG in 2OT, Isles clinch series

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