The New York Islanders did not perform as they would likely have hoped to in Game Five. But, thanks to a superb start by Ilya Sorokin, they won 3-2.
The New York Islanders were worked over for almost all of regulation, but thanks to one of Ilya Sorokin’s best starts, the Isles managed to keep the game tight and nab a late tying goal. Then, in double overtime, it was Josh Bailey, the modern Bob Nystrom, who buried the sudden death winner to lift New York 3-2 over Pittsburgh.
Here are three takeaways from the 3-2 overtime win in Game Five.
1. Sorokin’s Spectacular Start
I called Ilya Sorokin’s game four performance unspectacular after the Islanders’ win at Nassau Coliseum on Saturday afternoon. Well, on Monday he was nothing if not spectacular, and did the Islanders ever need him to be.
Sorokin set a franchise rookie record for saves made in a playoff game by turning aside 48 of 50 Penguins shots en route to the 3-2 double-overtime win. It was a win in which the Islanders and Sorokin allowed only one 5v5 goal on 44 5v5 shots, according to Natural Stat Trick.
Sorokin finished the night by saving 1.62 goals above expected (GSAx), the second time in as many games he’s finished by saving over one expected goal (xG).
Outside of the odd blip here or there, Sorokin’s play has grown increasingly more reliable and consistent as the 2020-21 season and playoffs have gone on. Don’t forget that back in January after a rough first two starts in the NHL there were a lot of questions about whether Sorokin was truly all he had been believed to be before his move to North America.
Later in the season, there were quotes from Barry Trotz himself that the Islanders may explore giving Sorokin some starts in the AHL.
There were concerns over his positioning, and how shifting from the larger Russian ice surface to the smaller North American one had affected his preparation. He was leaving a lot of poorly placed rebounds in front of and around the net, and he was often maligned by playing too deep in his crease.
Now, after a “full” regular season of NHL action under his belt, Sorokin appears to have stolen the starter’s crease away from friend and mentor Semyon Varlamov. He’s been in goal for all three Islanders victories in this series, and it doesn’t appear likely that he’ll come out for game six as the Islanders look to close out their opening-round series with the Penguins.