John Tavares scores in double overtime as Islanders eliminate Panthers
New York will face Tampa Bay Lightning in 2nd round
John Tavares tied it in the final minute of regulation and scored the winner at 10:41 of the second overtime, leading the New York Islanders past the Florida Panthers 2-1 Sunday night and into the second round of the playoffs for the first time since 1993.
Tavares skated in and fired an initial shot that Roberto Luongo saved, but the New York captain got the rebound, wrapped around the net and stuffed the puck in to end the longest home game in Islanders history.
"I don't think we tried to put too much pressure on ourselves knowing we weren't here for all of that," Tavares said of New York's playoff series drought. "But certainly a lot us have been here for a while and it was time for us."
The Islanders will next face Tampa Bay.
Thomas Greiss finished with 41 saves in the teams' second straight two-overtime game and third in the series to go past regulation. The Islanders won Game 3 here 4-3 in the first extra period, and took Game 5 in Florida 2-1 at 16 minutes of the second OT.
And, in Game 6, Tavares sent the Barclays Center crowd into a frenzy with his series winner, and was quickly mobbed by his exhausted but ecstatic teammates.
"When I got the rebound, I realized how far he came out," Tavares said. "I had a good step and just tried to, not take my time, but really make sure I had control of the puck. And obviously once you get around the net, make sure it goes in."
Jonathan Huberdeau scored late in the first period for Florida, and Luongo stopped 49 shots for the Panthers.
On the tying goal with just under 54 seconds left in the third period, Islanders defenseman Nick Leddy took the puck behind his own empty net, skated all the way down the right side and sent a centering pass from behind the Panthers' goal. Nikolay Kulemin tried to tip it in, but Roberto Luongo dived to his left on top of it. But the puck trickled out from underneath him to his right, and Tavares swooped in and put it in for his fourth of the series.
"I just tried to get lost in coverage and just hope the puck kind of came to me," Tavares said. "Lucky enough, it just squirted under Luongo and it doesn't get any easier than that."
Both teams had solid chances in the extra periods, but were stonewalled by the goalies.
Reilly Smith, held without a point since having four goals and four assists in the first three games, fired a shot that deflected off the crossbar early in the second OT.
On an Islanders rush, Kyle Okposo got the puck on the left side, but his wrist shot was turned aside by Luongo near the 6-minute mark. Okposo was also open at the left side of the net, but Tavares' pass went between his skates.
Greiss smothered a wrist shot by Huberdeau with about 6 minutes remaining in the first OT.
"He played great," New York coach Jack Capuano said of his goalie. "You need goaltending and he came up big for us."