The renaissance season will last at least two more games.
The Islanders return to Pittsburgh having evened the Eastern Conference quarterfinal matchup by topping the Penguins 6-4 in Game 4.
Game 5 is Thursday night at Pittsburgh’s CONSOL Energy Center.
“Anytime you play a team like that, as skilled as they are, I thought we did a great job,” head coach Jack Capuano said after the best-of-seven series was reduced to a best-of-three. “We did a lot of good things.”
John Tavares’s goal with 9:49 left was the game-winner. Tavares fired a shot that skittered under Marc-Andre Fleury’s arm and along the ice after Brad Boyes forced an Evgeni Malkin turnover in the Penguins’ end.
The goal broke a 4-4 deadlock.
The win was the Islanders’ first at the Coliseum in the Stanley Cup playoffs since April 28, 2002. The Islanders beat the Maple Leafs, 5-3, in a game remembered for Eric Cairns’s TKO of Shayne Corson.
The Islanders led twice, 1-0 and 2-1. Brian Strait opened the scoring 5:55 into the match with a 51-footer that fooled Fleury.
But as quickly as the Islanders had leads, the Pens tied the game. Forty-five seconds after Strait’s goal, James Neal tied the game at 1-1 with his first of the postseason. Evgeni Malkin tied the game at 2-2 1:02 later.
“We’ve learned areas of our game where we need to be better,” Capuano said. “The one thing about that team is that they don’t need many chances. They can strike— quick— and they did that. But I thought we responded well and you can see our guys growing.”
Brandon Sutter gave Pittsburgh its first lead of the game, 3-2, at the 11:03 mark of the second. But the Pens couldn’t grow the lead and it cost them when Kyle Okposo’s behind-the-net backhand banked off of Fleury’s pads into the cage with 1:24 left in the period.
“I knew Fleury was scrambling around. I knew there [were] a lot of bodies in front and I was trying to get it out there,” Okposo said. “Bank it off something and it ended up going off him.”
Fleury allowed all six goals on 24 shots.
“We want to get shots from everywhere,” Okposo said when asked if the Islanders were making a concerted effort to make Fleury work. “Obviously you don’t shoot too much from behind the net, but we’re trying to get pucks to the net and get bodies there.”
Pittsburgh went up 4-3 41 seconds into the third when Pascal Dupuis tipped Chris Kunitz’s centering feed past Evgeni Nabokov (27 saves). It was Dupuis’s fourth goal of the series.
Mark Streit tied the game with a shot that ricocheted off Douglas Murray’s skate at 4:30 of the third period. It was his second goal of the game, after being credited with a power-play score in the second.
“We don’t want to have to [play] ping-pong game, up-and-down,” Streit said. “We like to get the lead and play well defensively. Sometimes things just happen and they’re going to get opportunities. It’s just how you respond as a team. [You] just have to keep working and keep plugging away and work for your chances. Never give up.”
Casey Cizikas’s second of the series ended the scoring, yet there was one last pyrotechnic display as Malkin and Travis Hamonic engaged in a fight as the horn sounded which saw all 10 players on the ice get involved.
“You have to ask them,” said Hamonic, when asked why the scuffle started. “Let them think what they think. We’ll worry about ourselves. It’s the way we like to play, but you’d have to go and ask them if they’re frustrated.”
Follow NHL beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman.