Andy Greene, the mild-mannered defenseman with the gray beard, would have been an unlikely choice to get the Islanders’ second-round playoff party started on Monday night in Toronto.
After all, the former Devils captain hadn’t scored a playoff goal in more than 10 years when the Isles faced off against the top-seeded Philadelphia Flyers in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference second-round series.
But the 5-11, 190-pound Greene indeed got the Islanders started in a stunning 4-0 victory over the Flyers at Scotiabank Arena. He took a return pass from Brock Nelson and whacked a slap shot from just inside the blue line that snaked its way through traffic and somehow beat Philadelphia goaltender Carter Hart on the glove side at 6:06 of the first period.
“Greener getting that goal kind of gave us some jump,’’ Anders Lee, who scored the third goal of the game, said on the postgame Zoom news conference.
For Greene, acquired by the Islanders on Feb. 16, eight days before the NHL trade deadline, it was his first playoff goal since April 16, 2010, when he scored against the very same Flyers while playing for the Devils.
His goal that night came against goaltender Brian Boucher, who was working Monday’s game for NBC Sports as the in-between benches reporter. According to Islanders statistician Eric Hornick, Greene, 37, became the oldest Islander to score a playoff goal since Ed Westfall scored in 1979 at the age of 38.
But Greene did more than score for the Isles. He blocked four shots, including one with 1:31 remaining in the first period that surely saved what would have been the tying goal.
Defending against a two-on-one Flyers rush, Greene appeared beaten as Kevin Hayes’ pass came across to Travis Konecny. With goalie Semyon Varlamov unable to get across the crease in time, Konecny fired a shot behind Greene to the vacant left side of the net. Somehow, though, Greene managed to throw his right leg behind him and deflected the puck away with his skate.
“You know, the goal, I just kind of got the middle there and saw a shot and put that through,’’ Greene said. “But the [blocked shot] was, I can’t let that pass get through. And then, at that point, once it did, it’s just kind of desperation mode, and [I] got lucky.’’
General manager Lou Lamoriello, who signed the undrafted Greene with the Devils after his college career at Miami of Ohio, traded for him to fortify the Isles’ defense after the apparent season-ending Achilles tendon injury suffered by Adam Pelech.
When the NHL season was paused on March 12 because of the coronavirus, it allowed Pelech to get healthy and return to action when the NHL restarted Aug. 1. So with Pelech back, Greene was left out of the lineup when the Isles began the postseason with their qualifying series against Florida.
But an injury to Johnny Boychuk forced coach Barry Trotz to put Greene in the lineup, and he has been so steady — he’s plus-7 in nine games in the postseason, with a goal and two assists — that even after Boychuk got healthy, Trotz decided to stay with Greene.