Rookie netminder Ilya Sorokin stole Game 5 for the Islanders, coming up with a franchise rookie playoff record 48 saves on 50 shots as the Isles pulled out a 3-2 win over the Penguins in double overtime Monday night.
With the victory, his third of the series, Sorokin became the first rookie goalie in franchise history to win each of the first three playoff games of his career.
“Outstanding,” head coach Barry Trotz said. “I can use all the ones that you want to write, they all will apply. He was outstanding. He gave us a chance. The first two periods were not pretty and he allowed us to hang around.”
With eight stops in the first extra period and one on Penguins forward Bryan Rust just before Josh Bailey’s game-winner in the second, Sorokin allowed the Islanders to remain competitive throughout the game. The Islanders acknowledged that the 25-year-old netminder’s play through the first two periods was the only reason why it was only a one-goal game heading into the final frame.
“Ilya was playing great, just a real backbone for us,” Bailey said. “He gave us some confidence that he was going to get the job done and we just had to stick with it. “
Sorokin made a sprawling save on Penguins fourth-line winger Brandon Tanev during a Penguins odd-man rush just over a minute into the second period. And when the Islanders went on the penalty kill, Sorokin came up with saves on Evgeni Malkin and Jake Guentzel.
Bailing out several Islanders in the opening 20 minutes, Sorokin made two crucial saves on the Penguins’ Teddy Blueger to make up for a Nick Leddy turnover and another on Rust following a Scott Mayfield gaffe.
“It’s impressive for his first year how calm he is back there, especially in a game like tonight in Pittsburgh and with the crowd on him,” Jordan Eberle said. “He stands tall.”
Oliver Wahlstrom went to the locker room in the second half of the third period and never returned in the double-overtime win, after absorbing a hit from Penguins defenseman Michael Matheson.
The Islanders rookie winger collided with Matheson near the corner and fell awkwardly on his right leg. Wahlstrom struggled to get to his feet and needed assistant off the ice.
“Right now, I’d say he’s day-to-day,” Trotz said after the win, which gave the Isles a 3-2 series lead. “Hopefully when we get him back and see where he is [Tuesday], we’ll have a better idea.”
Coming off his best game of the series in Game 4 on Saturday, in which he had one power-play goal and an assist in the Isles’ series-tying win, Wahlstrom had begun to look more comfortable in the first playoff run of his NHL career. He’s totaled one goal and two assists in five games.
The 20-year-old finished with three shots on goal and three hits in 11:56 of ice time Monday.
“It’s never fun to lose a teammate and Wally has been a big player for us all year,” said J-G Pageau, who has skated on the third line with Wahlstrom. “Even in the playoffs, he’s scored big goals, making hard plays and for his first year, it’s very impressive. I was lucky to play with him. We’re going to hope he’s OK. When one guy goes down, some other guys have to step up.”
The winner of the Islanders-Penguins series will face the Bruins in the second round, after Boston defeated the Capitals in five games Sunday. Since Trotz won the Stanley Cup in Washington in 2018, the Capitals have won just five playoff games.
“Everybody saw that that series ended,” Trotz said prior to Game 5. “Everybody’s conscious of it. But I don’t think it gives you extra motivation, I just think that you have to focus on the moment and the task at hand.”