Islanders move on with double OT win over Panthers

Islanders Outlast Panthers to Advance

(The Sports Xchange) - It took the New York Islanders just shy of 23 years -- 8,381 days, to be exact -- to finally win a postseason series. They would like to wait only a couple weeks to win another one.

Islanders captain John Tavares cemented his status in franchise lore on Sunday, scoring in the final minute of regulation to force overtime and then scoring in the second overtime to give New York a 2-1 win in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference quarter-finals at Barclays Center.

The Islanders' third overtime win -- and second double-overtime win in as many games -- gave them a 4-2 series win. New York will face the Tampa Bay Lightning in the conference semifinals later this week.

"We want to enjoy tonight, but we want to keep this thing going," Tavares said. "We've got a special group. We believe we can do something special."

The postseason series win is the first for the Islanders since 1993 -- so long ago the NHL had just 24 teams and still went by traditional hockey names for its divisions and conferences.

The Islanders beat the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins -- with the latter series concluding May 14, 1993 -- that spring to emerge from the Patrick Division before falling to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Montreal Canadiens in the Wales Conference finals.

"It's been a long time coming, honestly," Islanders right winger Cal Clutterbuck said. "It's just good to be the team that kind of allows people to enjoy the moment, to get over that hump."


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Islanders move on with double OT win over Panthers
CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 22: Jonathan Toews #19 of the Chicago Blackhawks and Steven Kampfer #3 of the Florida Panthers watch for the puck next to goalie Roberto Luongo #1 in the first period of the NHL game at the United Center on October 22, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 23: Marek Zidlicky #28 of the New York Islanders and Zac Rinaldo #36 of the Boston Bruins collide along the boards during the third period at the Barclays Center on October 23, 2015 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. The Bruins defeated the Islanders 5-3. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
DALLAS, TX - OCTOBER 27: (L-R) Jamie Oleksiak #5 of the Dallas Stars and Chris Stewart #29 of the Anaheim Ducks fight in the first period at American Airlines Center on October 27, 2015 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
SAN JOSE, CA - OCTOBER 28: Mike Brown #18 of the San Jose Sharks flips over Mattias Ekholm #14 of the Nashville Predators as he goes for the puck at SAP Center on October 28, 2015 in San Jose, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - NOVEMBER 06: Dominic Moore #28, Jarret Stoll #26, Keith Yandle #93 and Jesper Fast #19 of the New York Rangers pursue the puck against the Colorado Avalanche at Pepsi Center on November 6, 2015 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - FEBRUARY 02: Michael Del Zotto #15 of the Philadelphia Flyers misses a check and crashes into the boards against the Montreal Canadiens during the third period at Wells Fargo Center on February 2, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - FEBRUARY 21: Matt Dumba #24 of the Minnesota Wild scores against goaltender Corey Crawford #50 of the Chicago Blackhawks in the first period of the 2016 Coors Light Stadium Series game at TCF Bank Stadium on February 21, 2016 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Wild defeated the Blackhawks 6-1. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)
ANAHEIM, CA - MARCH 16: Corey Perry #10 of the Anaheim Ducks falls back onto the net as Antti Raanta #32 of the New York Rangers looks on from inside the net during the game on March 16, 2016 at Honda Center in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Debora Robinson/NHLI via Getty Images)
VANCOUVER, BC - MARCH 27: Matt Bartkowski #44 of the Vancouver Canucks gets his helmet adjusted during their NHL game against the Chicago Blackhawks at Rogers Arena March 27, 2016 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 02: Keith Yandle #93 of the New York Rangers fals ove Johan Larsson #22 of the Buffalo Sabres during their game at Madison Square Garden on April 2, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Jan 21, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Vancouver Canucks left wing Daniel Sedin (22) dumps Boston Bruins right wing Brett Connolly (14) during the third period of the Vancouver Canucks 4-2 win over the Boston Bruins at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
NEWARK, NJ - MARCH 29: Keith Kinkaid #1 of the New Jersey Devils makes the second period save against the Boston Bruins at the Prudential Center on March 29, 2016 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Clutterbuck said he and his teammates would revel in the moment as well -- for a little while, at least.

"We've got a lot of work to do," Clutterbuck said. "We're trying to win the Stanley Cup."

For 59 minutes, it appeared as if the series would go to a decisive seventh game Tuesday night in Florida. Panthers center Jonathan Huberdeau scored with 62 seconds left in the first period and goalie Roberto Luongo stopped the first 30 shots he faced.

With Islanders goalie Thomas Greiss pulled for the extra attacker, Matt Martin and Nikolay Kulemin fired shots that were turned back by Luongo. But he was sprawled face down on the ice as the puck skittered to his right and Tavares swooped in and put it home with 52.3 seconds left.

"He's a star player in this league and he comes up big when he has to," Panthers head coach Gerard Gallant said of Tavares.

Luongo made 15 saves during a first overtime in which the Islanders had plenty of chances to score the game-winner.

"It just felt the longer that game went on, the worse it was going to be for us, because I thought we were outplaying them," Islanders right winger Kyle Okposo said.

Okposo helped end the game in the second overtime. As he skated down the right side of the ice, Okposo said he heard Tavares call for the puck. Okposo passed to Tavares, whose shot was deflected by Luongo.

But Luongo came out far to the right of the net to make the save. Tavares picked up the loose puck, skated around the back of the net and tucked it into the open left corner.

"Once he picked it up behind the net, I think I raised my hands," Okposo said. "I kind of saw the whole play happening. It was pretty cool to have a front row seat to that."

The goal set off a deafening celebration at Barclays Center, where the Islanders moved this season following 43 years at Nassau Coliseum.

"Euphoria -- you can't even really process it," Tavares said. "It was obviously amazing to look around and see all the orange and blue (towels waving). Just incredible."

The long-awaited series win comes in the final year before longtime owner Charles Wang cedes ownership to Jon Ledecky and Scott Malkin.

"For us to get by that first round, it's a proud moment for him - seeing him after the game and seeing how excited he was," Islanders head coach Jack Capuano said. "It's a good feeling for these guys."

Greiss, who played all six games after entering this season with just one playoff appearance, made 41 saves.

Luongo made 49 saves for the Panthers, who now inherit the Islanders' mantle as the longest-suffering team in the NHL. Florida, which won the Atlantic Division this season, has not won a postseason series since it reached the Stanley Cup in 1996.

The Panthers lost despite trailing for just 45:54 of the 439 minutes and 12 seconds the series lasted. They didn't trail in Games 3 and 6 until allowing the game-winning goals in overtime.

"I thought we were in control of the series most nights," Gallant said. I thought we were the better team most nights. The hockey gods weren't with us.

"I'm giving the Islanders credit. They played a great game, played a great series. I thought we played a good series."

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