Islanders earn respect of Crosby, Penguins in tough series
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The Penguins didn't come back to Long Island last night to praise the Islanders. They came to finish them off.
But the No. 8 seed Islanders clearly earned the respect of top-seeded Pittsburgh through a six-game series that ended with the Penguins' 4-3 overtime victory at Nassau Coliseum.
"They're a good hockey team. They're going to be in more playoffs," Penguins star Sidney Crosby said.
"It was an all-out battle that they gave us," said Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma.
The Islanders were 5:16 away from forcing a Game 7 tonight in Pittsburgh when defenseman Paul Martin scored to tie it at 3 and eventually send the game into overtime.
The Penguins won 7:49 into OT when Brooks Orpik beat Evgeni Nabokov with a slap shot from the point that hit off both posts and ended up in the net. It was Orpik's first playoff goal and sent the Penguins to a second-round date with the Ottawa Senators.
"Obviously, it's not as easy as people would think," Penguins goalie Tomas Vokoun said before he made 35 saves to help finish off the gritty Islanders.
Said Crosby: "We said that from the start: We respected their team and the way they played. We knew that they had a lot of guys that were dangerous with a ton of skills. They played the way we expected but ultimately we felt we could have done a better job in certain areas, too, but you've got to give them a lot of credit. They played good hockey."
The Penguins overcame three one-goal deficits Saturday night. Bylsma said he thought the Islanders got "a little bit tentative defensively" trying to protect their final lead of the season in the third period.
Still, Bylsma was glad he doesn't have to face the Islanders again in a Game 7.
"Before the series, pundits were talking about the series [ending] in five," he said. "They were a very good team. They're a dangerous team. Their speed gave us a lot to handle. They came at us in a lot of different ways. It was every bit of a battle out there through six games. Even in this game they came out early and showed that.
"Regardless of the fact they're a young team or they haven't had tons of playoffs, they're a very good team and I just feel fortunate to really get that goal from Paul Martin to tie it up and be able to get the win here today, get the fourth win and move on."
The Penguins started slow; Bylsma called a timeout 1:19 into the game. But it wasn't enough to stop the Islanders' early surge. John Tavares scored at 5:36.
The Penguins answered quickly when Jarome Iginla tied it 2:03 later off a rebound of a Crosby shot.
Michael Grabner gave the Islanders a 3-2 lead 2:21 into the third period with his first of the playoffs. But Martin tied it at 14:44 with his first goal of the series to send it to overtime.