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Islanders' Strome stepping up at right time

New York looking for more after forward's winning goal against Florida in Game 1

by Brian Compton @BComptonNHL / Deputy Managing Editor

Strome buries a rebound

NYI@FLA, Gm1: Strome nets a rebound past Luongo

R1, Gm1: Alan Quine makes a nice move that leads to a rebound, where Ryan Strome rifles it into the twine to give the Islanders a two-goal lead

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SUNRISE, Fla. -- One of the reasons New York Islanders general manager Garth Snow didn't acquire a premier wing last summer to skate alongside John Tavares was because of the rookie season Ryan Strome had in 2014-15.

Strome, the Islanders' first-round pick (No. 5) in the 2011 NHL Draft, had 50 points in 81 games in his first full NHL season, and the thought was things would get better in Year Two.

But Strome scored one goal in his first 12 games and was sent to Bridgeport of the American Hockey League in early November. He stayed there for three weeks, and when he returned to New York the offensive output didn't get much better.

"I don't know," Strome said. "It was a little frustrating getting sent down, and I think I got on a pretty good run and then I kind of lost 25 games. I just kind of went dry. If you erase those 25 games it's not too bad. A little bit frustrating and maybe pushing a little bit too much. But a little bit of luck too.

"But at the end of the day I've got to be better. It was kind of an inopportune time for me and the team. But having said that, we still had 100 points and we're still here. You still have a good chance to contribute and help the team out like I did [in Game 1]."

The regular season must have seemed like a distant memory Thursday for Strome. His goal at 6:01 of the third period held up as the game-winner in the Islanders' 5-4 win against the Florida Panthers in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference First Round series at BB&T Center.

Strome's reaction said it all. He pumped his fists and screamed to the heavens after contributing to the cause the way he and the Islanders always knew he could.

"The points come and go," Strome said. "I saw throughout the year when I was struggling a little bit I'd get some points, and then when you're playing some great hockey it just doesn't go in. In the playoffs especially it's all about the wins. That's what it is all about. To go up 2-0 [in the series], especially on the road here, would be huge. Any way I can contribute would be great."

The Islanders will try to take another one on the road in Game 2 Friday (7:30 p.m. ET; NHLN, SN360, TVA Sports 3, SUN, MSG+), before the series shifts to Barclays Center for Games 3 and 4. Strome, who also had an assist in Game 1, could be a difference-maker if he can continue to produce offensively.

It would be a huge boost for his confidence after he had eight goals and 28 points in 71 regular-season games.

"I don't know if it was a rough last 20-plus games for him, but the points weren't there," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. "I think in the 20 games he had three points on [Tavares'] line. You know what? He's a skilled guy, he really cares about his game. But to see him come back [in Game 1] and contribute with a couple of points and just playing the way that we know Ryan Strome can play. Getting that secondary scoring is going to help us because they get the matchups they want here against our top lines and we're going to need those guys.

"Hopefully Ryan can build off that and continue to help us in that category. Defensively he's been solid for us. But anytime that we can get him going on the offensive side of the puck it's going to pay dividends for us."

Strome said he was grateful for the character within the walls of the Islanders locker room when times were tough. Whether it was Tavares, whom he has known most of his life, or Nielsen, the longest-tenured player on the roster, there were plenty of people he could turn to when smiles weren't so easy to come by.

"Everyone is trying to help everyone," Nielsen said. "Every time someone isn't playing as well for a little while, you try to help people. It happens to everyone. It happens to me and everyone tries to help me too.

"It was big that he got that goal [Thursday]. Hopefully it can get him some confidence. We need [Strome]. He's a good player; he's so talented. He can make a difference in this series."

Of course Strome would love to continue to produce, to continue to score the type of clutch goal he scored in Game 1. But he insisted Friday morning, hours before the second of this back-to-back situation, the only number that matters to him is if the series reads Islanders 2, Panthers 0 when he and his teammates board their flight home.

"It's all about the team now," Strome said. "It might be a cliché, but everyone has the same goal. And for some guys, no matter how your season went you've got to put that aside and put your ego aside. It's all about the team.

"I think the last little while, once guys kind of found their roles and identities, you just kind of roll with it. Anything to do to help the team is what we're trying to do. No matter how many minutes you're playing, I think everyone's kind of buying in. If we do that, I think we can really make some noise here."

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