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Speedy Prince on roll for Islanders

23-year-old forward proving to be good fit with New York

by Nicholas J. Cotsonika @cotsonika / Columnist

BRANDON, Fla. -- Growing up in Rochester, N.Y., Shane Prince watched the Buffalo Sabres. His favorite player was Danny Briere. Despite his 5-foot-10, 180-pound size, Briere was all over the puck and became known as a clutch scorer, finishing his NHL career with 53 goals in 124 playoff games.

"I just liked the way he played," Prince said. "That's something I want to establish myself as, to be able to produce in the playoffs and help your team win, because I mean, in the end, that's what really matters. Your team makes the playoffs, you need guys to step up and give them that extra jolt and eventually win a [Stanley] Cup."

Prince has three goals in seven Stanley Cup Playoff games for the New York Islanders, who practiced Friday for Game 2 of their Eastern Conference Second Round series with the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday (3 p.m. ET; NBC, SN, TVA Sports).

He had two goals in the Islanders' 5-3 victory in Game 1 on Wednesday.

This, after he had scored six goals in 64 career regular-season games: three goals in 44 games for the Ottawa Senators, three goals in 20 games for the Islanders after they acquired him Feb. 29 before the NHL Trade Deadline.
Prince has patterned himself after Briere, at least a little. He is listed at 5-11, 185, and plays offense with an edge. He scored 43 goals in 57 regular-season games - plus seven goals in 18 playoff games - his third year in junior with the Ottawa 67's of the Ontario Hockey League, and he scored 28 goals in 72 games his third season in the minors with Binghamton of the American Hockey League.

Though he made the Senators this season - and though they had invested a second-round pick in him, selecting him No. 61 in the 2011 NHL Draft - he often didn't get much ice time. The Senators would probably say he didn't earn it. He would say he needed it to blossom. Either way, it wasn't working out, and he was traded.

"It's going to be tough to score when you're playing six, seven minutes a night," Prince said. "But just even getting a feel for the League, getting emotionally into the games, that's the whole thing. If you're mentally and emotionally out of the game from just sitting there, it's tough to play. For whatever reason, the opportunity was limited.

"I was fortunate enough to get a chance here. Try to make more of an impact."

The Islanders needed speed and secondary scoring, and they liked Prince's upside at age 23. They told him he would get a chance to play with good players, and they have lived up to it. He played Game 1 with Ryan Strome, the No. 5 pick in 2011, and either Frans Nielsen or Brock Nelson.

"I'm just getting a feel for the game now," Prince said. "It's a whole different league. The biggest thing is getting out there a lot and getting a feel for the different style of play, the different ways to find scoring areas. In 20 games with these guys, I played a little bit more, and just getting more into the game. Now it's starting to show a little bit, and I feel good."

Prince scored twice in a span of 2:29 late in the first period Wednesday - netting the second with 2.1 seconds left - to turn a 1-1 game into a 3-1 Islanders lead.

Video: NYI@TBL, Gm1: Prince finishes both of Strome's feeds

On the first goal, he went to the net on the rush, was left alone by the Lightning and redirected a pass from Strome past goaltender Ben Bishop.

On the second, he showed hockey sense. He went to the net again, then backed off and slipped into the left circle quietly as he saw Strome go behind the net with the puck. As Lightning forward Ondrej Palat started to challenge him, Strome fed Prince, and Prince buried it before Lightning defenseman Jason Garrison could stop him.

"It's such a tough league to score in, obviously," Prince said. "There's guys out there that make a living just defending goal-scorers, so you've got to find different ways to get open and find that soft area. And I knew as soon as Stromer was coming around the net there on that second one, I had to kind of get away from the D because he was going to seal the net, and I was able to get open and get a good shot off.

"Goal-scorers, they find a way to score, and that's something I'm trying to do and still trying to find different ways to score in this league."

The Islanders bestow a beautifully ugly, orange-and-blue leather jacket with an old-school Eastern Conference logo to their player of the game. Captain John Tavares earned it Sunday for tying the game late in regulation and scoring in double overtime as the Islanders eliminated the Florida Panthers in the first round.

Tavares gave the jacket to Prince on Wednesday.

"It's cool," Prince said. "But I'm just happy to contribute and win. It's the best feeling when you're winning this time of year. Just want to keep it going."

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