The New York Islanders faced the top team in the Eastern Conference and got the 60-minute effort they wanted, one that has eluded them even amid some recent wins. But their difficulties in finishing continued to haunt them as they emerged from a dominant first period with only a 1-0 lead on Tuukka Rask.
The Isles ultimately suffered a 3-2 loss in overtime, though they can take some solace from their overall performance and by salvaging a point after falling behind briefly in the third period.
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First Period: Barclays burner
Would the Islanders be flat or disoriented after playing their first game in Brooklyn since November?
They came out flying, blitzing the Bruins for most of the first period and outshooting them 14-5. However, Rask was at his best to keep things close, the only goal coming off a Scott Mayfield shot from the blueline, through a screen, that beat Rask high in the middle of the net.
Mayfield called it lucky, but it was a smart play — he walked the blueline to get a better angle after Mathew Barzal circled the net to feed him — and he had a very strong night at both ends of the rink.
With how good the Bruins are, you wondered if that failure to cash in would haunt them.
Second Period: Of course
Sure enough, the middle period was tighter overall, with a few more frustrating saves from Rask to keep it close. Naturally, it was the Bruins who got the period’s only goal, on a play that the Isles coaches briefly considered challenging for goalie interference.
Anders Bjork drove the net on Nick Leddy, just about riding him all the way into Semyon Varlamov. Leddy’s leg clipped Varlamov, which caused the Isles goalie to lose his balance and provide an easier path for Jake DeBrusk’s shot to tie the score at 1-1.
Barry Trotz and Lane Lambert reviewed it on the tablet, delayed the ensuing faceoff, but ultimately decided not to challenge. Probably the correct decision, since the call was debatable and standard to overturn it is both stiff and ambiguously applied.
Another fantastic period for NYI, but Rask has been outstanding tonight. A familiar story, to be sure. #Isles Metrics After 2 via NST.— Carey Haber (@habermetrics) January 12, 2020
5v5 Score Adj.
58.28% High Danger
67.13% Exp. Goals
57.14% High Danger
65.78% Exp. Goals pic.twitter.com/kSlgdEUPrI
So it was just 1-1 despite the Islanders having the better of chances through 40. Would that cost them?
Third Period: Fall behind, come right back
Six minutes into the third, John Moore put the Bruins ahead with just his second goal of the season, a simple low shot from the point that found its way through legs and escaped the sight of Varlamov. The puck went in along the ice just inside the far post, so Varlamov likely wishes he had a better angle on it, but he had positioned himself while trying to find the shot through a two-player screen.
Both goals on Varlamov were awkward, but he was sharp overall tonight while compiling 30 saves.
While the tight nature of the game made it seem that could easily be the end of scoring, the Islanders stuck to their system and kept grinding away to shake loose some offensive openings. Yet the equalizer four minutes later came not from sustained zone time, but instead from a heads up entry on a broken play at the blueline.
An Islanders neutral zone pass had gone astray and bounced along the line. Josh Bailey alertly picked it up, gained the line, and faked a shot while delaying to feed Mathew Barzal as he burst through the slot. Barzal redirected the pass through Tuukka Rask’s legs.
This all came after the referees once again demonstrated they wanted no part in calling the game, with just one random minor called on each team in the first 60: Chris Wagner headlocked Jordan Eberle and took him to the ice, then sat on him and pinned him while looking back directly at the officials. The corner ref skated right by and acknowledged nothing.
Overtime: Oh, now we’ll call something
Village idiot Brad Marchand managed to draw a call from the refs when he attempted a spin move right into Brock Nelson and tripped over Nelson’s leg.
#Isles Barry Trotz on OT tripping call on Brock Nelson: "It was a penalty. That's my reaction. He spun off. It looked like a penalty."— Andrew Gross (@AGrossNewsday) January 12, 2020
I dunno.— Travis Flynn (@NDRedEagle) January 12, 2020
Nelson moved his skate about 2 inches. Marchand twirled into him and fell down.
It's a penalty, I suppose, but refs tend to call less 3v3. Tonight they called less 5v5.
Good game by Isles. Particularly Mayfield.
On the ensuing penalty kill, Casey Cizikas was felled when he took a David Pastrnak shot right there, and any hopes he has for siring further children may have been saved by the fact the shot hit his hockey stick first.
At what cost did the Isles break Pastrnak’s scoring streak? Hopefully Cizikas, who skated off under his own uncomfortable power, is good for Monday night.
Replays obviously showed where puck got Cizikas. Trotz thinks he'll be OK. "A little ice and just resting for tomorrow and hopefully he's ready to go." #Isles— Brian Compton (@BComptonNHL) January 12, 2020
The Islanders got a few shot blocks, a save, and a rink length clear on the penalty kill, but Patrice Bergeron ended it at 1:33, with over a minute left on the power play. He picked up a loose carom in the slot and sniped past Varlamov.
Moment of Zen
We’ve got the one and only @ralphmacchio on the t-shirt toss tonight! pic.twitter.com/xmCJxDTHuK— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) January 12, 2020
This begins a busy run-up to the All-Star break. The Islanders are at Madison Square Garden on Monday and then host the Red Wings the next night. That’s followed by four games in six nights to finish the pre-All-Star schedule