UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- When comparing the statistical careers of Mario Lemieux and Brooks Orpik, there are many, many differences in many, many categories. But on Saturday night, the Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman achieved something that his boss never did in his NHL career: score a playoff overtime goal.
Through 78 career postseason games, this playoff goal was Orpik's biggest because it was his first ever and it gave the Penguins a 4-3 overtime victory to eliminate the New York Islanders in Game 6.
“I’d much rather get one there than in the regular season when it doesn’t really matter," said Orpik.
Before overtimes, Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma rattles his brain thinking of a player on his team who he believes will score the game-winner. In his five seasons behind the bench in Pittsburgh, he's had no reason to choose Orpik, but who doesn't love a pleasant surprise?
Another player Bylsma didn't predict to net an important goal was Paul Martin, whose shot from the point with 5:16 left in regulation deflected off Frans Nielsen's stick to force the extra period.
“[We] just feel fortunate to get that goal from Paul Martin to tie it up and be able to get the game winner here today and get that fourth win and move on," said Bylsma.
Coming off an impressive Game 5 shutout, the Penguins' struggles from Games 2-4 returned and they once again couldn't keep up with the Islanders' speed and forecheck. Their inability to exit their own zone cleanly energized the sold-out Nassau Coliseum crowd.
The Islanders didn't allow many shots on Evgeni Nabokov, outshooting Pittsburgh 38-21, and they would take a 2-1 lead into the first intermission - -but, as has been shown throughout this series, the rollercoaster ride was just beginning.
“We responded being down three different times in the game," said Orpik. "We could have easily just packed it in and not battled back.”
Through three periods, the Penguins kept answering the Islanders on the scoresheet, but never held a lead until Orpik's winner. The Islanders, behind the energy of their 16,170 fans, once again outplayed the Penguins at 5-on-5 and controlled possession during many points of the game. By the time Orpik's goal went behind Nabokov, you could hear the sigh of relief from the Pittsburgh bench.
“Right now it just feels great to close it out and move on," said Jarome Iginla. "Nobody was taking anything for granted. We wanted to end it tonight.”
The Penguins will move on to the second round to face the Ottawa Senators for the fourth time in seven seasons. While they'll be able to take the next few days before Game 1 to shift their focus, Pittsburgh cannot forget what happened in this series.
They cannot forget how the Islanders were successful at dictating the play. They cannot forget some of the undisciplined penalties that, without the help of a strong penalty kill, could have flipped this series in the Islanders' favor. They cannot have a short memory of this series. The memories of these six games have to factor in their improvement if they're to get by the Senators.
For now, though, it's all about surviving and advancing.