Uniondale, NY – The New York Islanders' first home playoff win in 11 years couldn't have come at a better time.
John Tavares scored the go-ahead goal midway through the third period to lift the hosts over the Pittsburgh Penguins, 6-4, in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series.
Not only did the Islanders tie this series at 2-2, but they posted their first playoff win at Nassau Coliseum since a 5-3 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals on April 28, 2002. In the process, New York snapped a seven-game home playoff losing streak.
Mark Streit had two goals and an assist for the Islanders, who bounced back from a 5-4 overtime loss in Sunday's Game 3. Casey Cizikas added a goal and two assists, while Kyle Okposo and Brian Strait had one goal apiece.
Evgeni Nabokov made 27 saves for the victors.
"We've got a lot of heart, we've got a great group, we never give up, and we've got a great goaltender," Streit said. "And this place, right now, it's great to play, and we want to come back here a few more times."
Evgeni Malkin had a goal and an assist for the Penguins, who will host Game 5 on Thursday. James Neal, Brandon Sutter and Pascal Dupuis also lit the lamp.
Marc-Andre Fleury showed signs of struggling as he did in last year's playoff loss to Philadelphia, stopping only 18-of-24 shots in defeat.
"You go game-by-game. After that you let it go and focus on the next one," Neal said. "We'll regroup and come out fired up in our own building."
The Penguins broke a 3-3 tie just 41 seconds into the third period when a Chris Kunitz shot from the top of the left circle deflected off Dupuis' backside and past Nabokov.
Streit tied the back-and-forth contest at the 4:30 mark when his slap shot from the point beat Fleury.
Tavares put New York in front to stay at the 10:11 mark. Brad Boyes stole the puck from Evgeni Malkin in the Pittsburgh zone and passed to Tavares, who put home his own rebound from atop the crease.
The Islanders put the game away with 1:16 to play. Cizikas fought off Matt Niskanen in the right circle, and managed to sneak a backhander past Fleury as he dropped his stick to the ice to make it 6-4.
New York continued to struggle on the power play in the early stages of the first frame, failing to capitalize on penalties to Malkin and Brooks Orpik at 1:26 and 7:01, respectively.
The Penguins held their breath past the midway mark of the opening stanza when Strait's shot from the left point hit Sidney Crosby's neck area. Crosby was in visible pain on the bench but didn't miss any time.
New York drew first blood with 5:55 remaining when Strait's floater from the left point got past Fleury for his first career playoff strike.
It took Pittsburgh just 45 seconds to respond with a goal of its own. Malkin controlled the puck in the high slot before passing down low to Neal, who scored from a sharp angle on the right wing.
The Islanders went back in front at the 6:19 mark of the middle stanza. While on the power play, Streit's shot from the top of the left circle beat traffic in front and got past Fleury.
Once again, the Penguins had a quick answer. Just 58 seconds after falling behind, Malkin lit the lamp during a 2-on-1 rush.
Pittsburgh took its first lead of the game with 8:57 to go in the second. Sutter took a cross-ice pass from Brenden Morrow before beating Nabokov on a high shot from the left circle.
Okposo tied things up again with 1:24 remaining when he banked a shot off Fleury from behind the net.
Neal and Orpik returned to the lineup for the Penguins. Neal missed the previous two games in this series with a lower-body injury, while Orpik sat out five in a row dating back to the end of the regular season due to a lower- body injury ... Islanders defenseman Andrew MacDonald left the game in the second period with an upper-body injury, later reported to be a broken hand ... New York is 2-for-15 on the power play in this series, while the Penguins are 6-for-15 ... This is the fourth time the Penguins and Islanders are meeting in the playoffs. The Isles won the previous three series (1975, 1982, 1993) including an upset seven-game victory over the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Pens in the Patrick Division finals in '93, which was the last time the club won a playoff series.