Palmieri collected a pass from Jean-Gabriel Pageau near the goal line and lifted it over Tristan Jarry and into the net as New York beat the Penguins for the first time in five tries at PPG Paints Arena this season.
Pageau and Brock Nelson also scored for the Islanders. Rookie goaltender Ilya Sorokin made 39 saves in his playoff debut and New York handed Pittsburgh its 10th playoff loss in the franchise’s past 11 postseason games.
Game 2 is Tuesday night in Pittsburgh.
Sidney Crosby, Frederick Gaudreau and Kasperi Kapanen scored for the Penguins, but the East Division champions couldn’t capitalize despite controlling play for most of the first two periods. Jarry finished with 37 saves but had issues with his glove side. All four of New York goals sailed over, around or seemingly through Jarry’s left arm.
The Islanders came in on their heels after finishing the regular season in a 6-6-3 funk, with none of the victories coming against playoff qualifiers. They appeared to have the advantage in net until veteran Semyon Varlamov was scratched, making Sorokin just the second rookie goaltender in Islanders’ history to start the opening game of the postseason.
The 25-year-old Russian appeared a little shaky early. While Palmieri gave the Islanders the early lead with a wrist shot from the right circle that Jarry couldn’t snag,
Gaudreau tied it 11:10 into the first when he collected a rebound off his own shot and ripped it by Sorokin.
Crosby then picked up his 69th career playoff goal — and 190th career postseason point — with a sublime deflection in which he fended off New York defenseman Andy Greene and redirected the puck with just the tip of his stick.
The goal — which moved Crosby into a tie with Hall of Famer Brett Hull for seventh on the NHL’s career postseason scoring list — gave the Penguins a 2-1 lead 3:47 into the second. Sorokin responded by settling in and giving his teammates time to collect themselves.
New York eventually found its footing, playing the heavy, thudding game favoured by head coach Barry Trotz. The Islanders pinned the Penguins down in their own end and kept firing away at Jarry. Pageau’s wrist shot from the left circle zipped over Jarry’s glove 3:33 into the third to tie it and when Nelson fluttered the puck by Jarry, the Islanders appeared ready to steal the series opener.
Kapanen, however, responded less than a minute later. His fifth career playoff goal with 3:39 remaining shook the Penguins out of their doldrums and forced the extra period.
The teams traded chances for most of overtime until Palmieri found room down low to end the longest-ever playoff game between the two teams.