PITTSBURGH – The New York Islanders spent the better part of four periods hanging on thanks largely to the sheer brilliance of rookie goaltender Ilya Sorokin.
They needed just 51 seconds of the fifth to stun the Penguins, with a major assist from Pittsburgh netminder Tristan Jarry.
Jarry's ill-advised clearing attempt early in the second overtime went right to New York forward Josh Bailey, who raced in to score the winner and give the Islanders a 3-2 victory in Game 5 and a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series.
“At first, I was just trying to settle (the puck) down and wanted to get a good shot off,” Bailey said. “Ultimately, I ran out of time and tried to let one go and happy to see it go in.”
New York can close out the East Division champions on Wednesday night in Long Island, a prospect that seemed improbable for long stretches of a regulation the Penguins dominated.
Sorokin, the 25-year-old Russian, is now 3-0 in the series and hardly seems rattled by the stage. Steady throughout and spectacular when the moment required, Sorokin kept Pittsburgh at bay long enough for his teammates to find a way.
“It all goes on Ilya,” Islanders coach Barry Trotz said. “We don’t have a chance if he doesn’t have an outstanding game in the first two periods, either.”
Sorokin stopped 48 shots, a franchise playoff record for a rookie goaltender, and appears to have New York's goalie situation settled for however long the Islanders last. He started Game 1 when veteran Semyon Varlamov was unavailable, then took a seat as Varlamov took the loss in Games 2 and 3. Trotz turned to Sorokin for Game 4 and he has responded by allowing just three goals over the last seven-plus periods.
“Ilya was playing great and a real backbone for us,” Bailey said. “(He) gave us confidence we were going to get the job done.”
Anthony Beauvillier scored in the first period on a brilliant rush and Jordan Eberle beat an out-of-position Jarry midway through the third period to pull New York even. Bailey's third — and quite possibly easiest — goal of the playoffs allowed the Islanders to take control of the series.
“As far as character, if you don’t have it, you’re not going to find a way to win,” Bailey said. "We have lots in that room.”
Evgeni Malkin scored his first postseason goal in more than two years for the Penguins. Bryan Rust added his second of the series. Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby picked up assist on Rust's tally to move past Hall of Famer Brett Hull and into seventh-place on the NHL's career playoff scoring list.
IN JARRY THEY TRUST?
Jarry, in his first true playoff run with the Penguins after the team traded two-time Stanley Cup winner Matt Murray last fall, finished with 25 saves but looked shaky at times and his inexcusable turnover leaves Pittsburgh in danger of going one-and-done in the playoffs for the third straight year.
The 26-year-old's teammates came to his defense in the aftermath, pointing out they wouldn't have won their first division title since 2014 without Jarry. True, but his iffy play in Game 1 let the Islanders get an early jump in the series and his careless outlet pass put the Penguins on the brink of elimination.
“I thought he had a heck of a game up to that point,” Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said. "He made a mistake. But he made some great saves for us throughout the course of the game as well.”
Sullivan has little choice but to stick with Jarry on Wednesday. Backup Casey DeSmith is out with an undisclosed injury, leaving third-stringer Maxime Lagace as the only other option.
“We’ll rally around (Jarry),” Sullivan said. "He’s been a really good goalie for us all year long. He’ll continue to be a good goalie for us going forward.”
The swagger Pittsburgh lacked during a listless performance on Long Island in Game 4 returned back home at half-capacity PPG Paints Arena. The Penguins dictated the pace all night, sending wave after wave at Sorokin.
Malkin, playing on an achy right knee that forced him to miss six weeks during the regular season, ended a 10-game postseason scoring drought when he zipped a wrist shot from the left circle over Sorokin's right shoulder 8:20 into the first period.
The Penguins outshot New York 20-4 in the second period alone, taking the lead 7:37 into the period on Rust's long shot from outside the right circle. The game was perhaps Pittsburgh's best of the season. Now they have to find a way to summon it again after a potentially crushing defeat.
“We played the game the right way,” Sullivan said. "We generated a lot of scoring chances against a pretty stingy defensive team. I just think we’ve got to take the positives.”
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