Notice there's nothing in the adage of a hot goaltender leading a deep playoff run needing to be the starter. And after 21 seasons of occasionally peeking their heads into the playoffs, the New York Islanders aren't about to be picky with qualifications.
It's not the goalie they thought it'd be maybe even six weeks ago, but few Islanders fans will be checking the progress of Jaroslav Halak prior to Sunday night's Game 6 against the second-seeded Florida Panthers. Rather, it's Thomas Greiss who has the Islanders in position to reach the second round for the first time since 1993.
The wild-card Islanders can clinch before a home crowd that tuned in with sweaty palms for Friday's 2-1 double-overtime win in Florida. They lost in seven games to Washington last season and in six to Pittsburgh in 2013 for their only playoff appearances since '07.
"This is the first time we're going back with three wins and a chance to close it out at home," Frans Nielsen told the team's official website after scoring his third goal of the series in the first period. "Hopefully we're going to come out and respond the right way."
Alan Quine, who wasn't three months old when New York beat the Penguins in seven games in '93, scored on the power play 16 minutes into the second extra period for his first playoff goal and second overall in his seventh NHL game (see full preview).
Wild look to send series back to Dallas
Minnesota would've entered the playoffs as a huge underdog against top-seeded Dallas even if Zach Parise and Thomas Vanek were healthy. The absence of two of its best forwards only enhanced that notion.
The fact that the Wild have a chance to push this series the distance with a home victory over the Stars in Game 6 on Sunday might be shocking to outsiders, but they've gotten enough contributions from elsewhere to make it possible.
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The most notable has been from Mikko Koivu. The 33-year-old Wild captain had one point through the series' first four games before tying Game 5 with 3:09 remaining in regulation and winning it 5-4 in overtime with a redirection of Ryan Suter's shot.
"When you lose top players, other guys have to step up," Suter said. "And Mikko has stepped up."
Parise's upper-body injury and Vanek's lower-body ailment likely will keep them out no matter if Minnesota is able to force Game 7 on Tuesday in Dallas, but Koivu believes there's enough to keep rolling.
The Wild jumped out to a 2-0 lead in Game 5, withstood the pressure after Jamie Benn, Jason Spezza and Alex Goligoski scored in the third to put the Stars ahead and keep their composure to win it in the extra session. They were routed 4-0 in Game 1, but their other two defeats in the series have come by one goal and they've scored five in each win (see full preview).