Islanders history will remember Friday night's Game 5 fondly, but it wasn't without its moments that tested our faith, and it took the unlikeliest of heroes to get the job done.
The Islanders were awarded their second power play of double overtime, but they had just 40 seconds remaining on it when Marek Zidlicky and Thomas Hickey played catch with the puck at the point.
"You get that second [power play] and you're thinking, are they going to get one next?" Jack Capuano said after the game, according to Newsday's Arthur Staple. "You have to take advantage."
It was a question that was probably racing through every Islanders fan's mind. I know it was in mine. It was time to cash in. Now or never. But who would step up and be the hero?
Turns out, the very last combination of players anyone expected.
As the defensemen played catch at the line, I reeled a bit. Just seven seconds earlier, Alan Quine had an entire empty side of the net open and just couldn't get his stick down in time. I worried that's what history might have said had the Isles not kept possession after that chance. Fortunately for the New York, the 23 year old, who wasn't even a glimmer in most fans' eye two weeks ago, took history into his own hands.
Zidlicky got the puck back from Hickey, pumped, then fed a pass toward the top of the right circle. Quine waited, with his stick cocked and ready to fire. He did not miss.
As households from Brooklyn to Bay Shore exploded in jubilation, it's easy to forget that it was just two weeks ago that Quine scored his first career NHL goal in meaningless game against the Buffalo Sabres.
Quine, who it seemed had just been up to fill out a lineup intended to give the Islanders regulars some rest, has now joined Ken Morrow and Mike Bossy as the third rookie to score for the franchise in overtime. To say this all seemed unlikely is an understatement.
Then, as I watched replay after replay this morning, my eyes bleary and my mind delirious, I looked around the ice. After Quine just missed ending it, Josh Bailey and Nikolay Kulemin, two much-maligned players in the opening games of this series, won a big battle along the far wall. I'm sure the fact that these two were even on the ice in overtime elicited plenty of moans from the Islanders faithful. But give them credit: since Game 2, they've both stepped their [stuff] up.
That got the puck back to Hickey, who already had been an unlikely hero in this series. He exchanged with Zidlicky, who used his veteran craftiness to get Quine some space, and force Roberto Luongo to pause for just a second. That savvy play is what comes with the 39-year old Zidlicky, who certainly would have taken in this epic from the press box had Ryan Pulock not gone down in Game 4.
Quine ripped one, and the Isles had beaten Luongo and the Panthers in overtime again. They have moved within one win of advancing in the playoffs for the first time since 1993, and for the second time this series, it was because the guys we never expected to come through in the clutch stepped up when it mattered most.