Going into this series, I had a feeling that goaltending was going to be a deciding factor and by that, I meant that the team who got slightly better goaltending would be the one who advanced. The Penguins had a decisive edge in this department based on their regular season numbers but after Marc-Andre Fleury experienced yet another playoff meltdown, their goaltending in this series was about on par with the Islanders and that isn't a good thing. To make matters worse, the Pens had been grossly outplayed in two out of three games so the margin for error became increasingly slim as the series went on and Fleury's terrible play was magnified. It got to the point where Pittsburgh needed their goaltender to help them persevere through stretches of bad play and possibly steal a game or two for them if needed. Fleury wasn't capable of doing that this series but fortunately for the Penguins, have a very capable "back-up" goaltender in Tomas Vokoun who they can go to when Fleury has a rough patch. Bylsma wisely elected to start him in Game Five and it paid off tremendously.
The Penguins have been getting outplayed for the better part of this series and they looked very sluggish to begin Game Five. The Islanders game planned for them well and completely shut down Pittsburgh's forecheck for the first 20 minutes. They also forced a lot of neutral zone turnovers to create rushes the other way and it really helped them establish a territorial advantage to take the crowd out of the game early. While this was a good road start, the one downside of the first period for the Islanders is that they didn't score and this is where the play of Vokoun played such a huge factor. It's unfair to say that Fleury wouldn't have been able to do the same thing but the Penguins being able to get the saves they need & escape the first period with no score was a big deal.
After that first period, Pittsburgh could regroup a little bit and they opened the floodgates in the next two periods. They outchanced the Islanders 15-8 in the final 40 minutes of the game after recording only two in the entire first period and were able to coast their way to a 4-0 win. The Penguins gave Vokoun plenty of goal support and played a good defensive game towards the end but he was the main reason they survived that first period and it gave his team a chance to regroup. Again, I don't think it's fair to say that Fleury wouldn't have been able to do the same, but Pittsburgh has desperately needed good goaltending for the last four games and they got that from Vokoun.no comments