One goal, 12 steps.
Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Quarter Final moved the series back to Long Island, giving the Isles home ice advantage and a chance to take the series – a series that many predicted would only go to five games – to seven.
The Islanders began the first period with a tremendous amount of pressure and never really slowed down, forcing the Penguins to use their time-out very early on in the game. The Isles’ speed and tenacity rewarded them with an early goal, credited to John Tavares, with five and a half minutes gone in the first. New York would work the puck through the circles, getting it to Tavares who beat Tomas Vokoun with a snap shot over the shoulder. The lead lasted but a minute before Jarome Iginla tied it up for Pittsburgh. Despite being drastically outplayed and outshot, Sidney Crosby found himself entering the zone with speed and sending a backhander toward Evgeni Nabokov who made the initial save but toppled over. This opened up the door for Iginla to pick up the puck and shove it over the line for the goal. With just over twelve minutes left in the first, the game was tied. Despite the goal, the Penguins would still be given the run around by the Isles through the remainder of the first twenty and before the period ended, the Penguins found themselves down a goal when Colin McDonald earned New York’s second of the night. With 0:37 left on the clock, McDonald tapped in a cross-crease feed. Escaping the period down a goal and having been outshot 12 to 7, the Penguins were going to have to work if they wanted to dig themselves out.
The second period saw a single goal courtesy of the Penguins accompanied by a couple trips to the penalty box. Brenden Morrow was whistled for a board with four and a half minutes off the clock in the middle frame. The Isles followed with a penalty of their own to Radek Martinek and while they would kill it off, they couldn’t stop Pascal Dupuis from tying the game up with nine minutes left in the period. Joe Vitale carried the puck with speed down the farside beside sending up the center where Dupuis directed it into the goal. With 14:04 left to play in the second, Matt Cooke was whistled for interference. The Penguins would successfully kill that penalty off only to be handed a second one when the team was whistled for too many men – a result of stalling Brandon Sutter not being able to get to the bench for James Neal touched the puck. The Penguins managed to survive the onslaught of the extra attacker and came within inches of taking the lead as the final seconds ticked down. Somehow Nabokov made the save on Crosby, and heading into the third, it remained tied at 2 goals apiece.
The Isles regained the lead two minutes and twenty-one seconds into the third courtesy of Michael Grabner. A missed pass by Matt Niskanen allowed the puck to get to Keith Aucoin who passed it to Grabner. Vokoun couldn’t get across to make the save and the one-timer would sneak past him. The Isles continued to outplay the Penguins, outshooting and outskating them, testing Vokoun and often. However, by some sort of Devine intervention, the Penguins would tie the game up with 5:16 left in regulation. The goal was credited to Paul Martin when his slap shot hit the stick of New York’s Franz Nielsen before flying over Nabokov’s shoulder and into the netting. Despite valiant efforts by both teams, the remaining five minutes of regulation would pass without a goal, sending the game into overtime.
The overtime period would last only 7:49 before it would be BROOKS ORPIK – WITH HIS FIRST EVER CAREER PLAYOFF GOAL – sealing the deal for the Penguins in the first round.With a beautiful play that started off behind the net by Evgeni Malkin, the puck would make its way to Orpik who’d rip a shot that would fly over Nabokov and into the net, ending the series with Game 6.
The Penguins will meet the Ottawa Senators in the next round.