EDMONTON — As a member of the Edmonton Oilers, Jordan Eberle never scored a playoff goal, but he was the Game 5 hero for the New York Islanders on Tuesday night in Edmonton.
Eberle has had a knack for scoring clutch goals in his career, and his double-overtime winner kept the Islanders' season alive in the Eastern Conference final as they staved off elimination with a 2-1 double-overtime win over the Lightning.
“It was the biggest one in a long time,” smiled Eberle, who converted a feed from captain Anders Lee on an odd-man rush 12:30 into the second overtime. “You want to have the opportunity to do it, and this team has battled to where we are and we’re not finished. You have to look at the whole play, Leesy made a heck of a play chipping it to himself and making a great pass to me, and I had to put it in, but a lot of credit should go to him.”
Before Game 5, Islanders head coach Barry Trotz didn’t necessarily call out his top line of Lee, Eberle and Mathew Barzal — but he wanted them to be more productive, and with their season on the line, they did that.
Barzal assisted on the Islanders first goal from defenseman Ryan Pulock and then Lee and Eberle connected on the game-winner.
Trotz took a page out of Jon Cooper’s book and dressed 11 forwards and seven defenseman and even tweaked his forward lines, starting Eberle on a line with J.G. Pageau and Matt Martin and moving Cal Clutterbuck to play with Lee and Barzal, and those tweaks didn’t result in an offensive explosion — but it got the job done.
“I wanted them to rise to the challenge, and they did,” said Trotz. “You start with our captain, Anders Lee. When we lost our stick (in double OT), he gave it to our defenseman and we had that long shift and he was blocking shots and was exhausted and he still found a way to make a great play to Ebs on the winning goal.
”Barzy was in a real good place in terms of his game. He managed the puck and was skating and had good energy. It’s not what you get, it’s what you leave, and I thought his game had a lot of substance tonight."
The Islanders needed more production from their top players, and their trio answered the bell when called upon in what was a gutsy win.
“You look at the way we did it tonight, guys were playing with everybody. We had 11 forwards and lines were shuffling. We did a good job of being composed and being ready when you got the chance to do it,” said Eberle. “The last few games, my line hadn’t had a lot of success offensively, but you switch things up, and we’ve always been a team that we win by committee and we lose by committee, so you get a chance with a couple other guys, it’s just fresh.”