If anyone was still questioning why Kyle Palmieri was brought to Long Island, all they had to do was watch Game 1 between the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins.
In what can only be described as his best game in orange and blue, Palmieri scored twice including the game-winner 16:31 into overtime to give the Islanders a 4-3 win over Pittsburgh. It was an all-around strong effort from the veteran forward, who logged 18:15 of ice time on Sunday afternoon, and it was exactly what the Islanders needed out of Palmieri in the postseason.
“I’m really glad for Palms,” Islanders head coach Barry Trotz said. “I know he put some undue pressure on him during the regular season. But we knew when the games got tight and you have to go to the dirty areas he’s capable of producing.”
That’s what Palmieri did on Sunday against Pittsburgh in the opening game of the playoffs. There was no better example of that than on his game-winning goal in overtime.
Palmieri took the puck into the offensive zone along the half wall before dumping the puck down to Jean-Gabriel Pageau. In the process, Palmieri barrelled over Pittsburgh defenseman John Marino to get into position to take the puck back from Pageau and fire one by starter Tristan Jarry.
“I was brought here to try and help this team win,” Palmieri said. “It’s just one game and tomorrow we’ll get back to work and get ready for Game 2, but it’s definitely nice to start out on the right foot. As a team, we just have to reset and get ourselves ready.”
For Palmieri, Game 1 had to have felt like a weight off his shoulders. In 17 regular-season games after he was traded to the Islanders, Palmieri only had four points (two goals, two assists) and seemed to be feeling the pressure a bit as the weeks wore on.
It wasn’t until his game against the New Jersey Devils in the second to last game of the season that he appeared to be coming into his own. By the first game of the playoffs, it looked as though he had his game where it needed to be.
“Me being from that area, it’s special to be a part of an organization that cares so much and believes in you,” Palmieri said. “You want to do your best to try and contribute and make sure you’re doing the things they brought you in to do. As a team, we’re building toward something special and our guys play for each other and we play incredibly hard for each other. We go out there and compete and that’s something we did tonight.”
“He [Pageau] played an awesome game. He was a spark plug for us all night.”
Palmieri ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/qAaw6uR0Or
— x – New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) May 16, 2021
Part of what helped Palmieri on Sunday was the practice time he got in during the week. The Islanders were able to get in three days of practice on Long Island before the start of the First Round.
Palmieri has also found some chemistry with linemates Oliver Wahlstrom and 2020 trade deadline acquisition Jean-Gabriel Pageau. The three have created a tandem that generates chances and has been able to find the back of the net.
Pageau and Palmieri combined to score three of the four Islanders goals in Game 1 and Oliver Wahlstrom registered his first playoff point on Palmieri’s goal in overtime.
“We just try to have good communication in all three zones to make it easier for all of us,” Pageau said about what’s worked for the trio. “I think that was a big part today of our game. Wherever we were all over the ice, good communication, working hard and keeping things simple. I don’t think we forced any play and it just happened when you wait for your chance you’re going to get it.
“It happened to us tonight.”