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Islanders 4, Bruins 2: New York remains only team to beat Boston in regulation

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Pageau, Barzal, Varlamov star while Leo Komarov makes a big contribution, fresh off waivers.

Boston Bruins v New York Islanders
Riding that waivers high...
Photo by Mike Stobe/NHLI via Getty Images

The New York Islanders logged a season-high 42 shots on goal against the stingiest team in the league, handing the Boston Bruins just their second regulation loss (10-2-2) of the season.

Both those losses have come at the hands of the Islanders at Nassau Coliseum.

J-G Pageau scored a pair of goals, Mathew Barzal scored the go-ahead goal early in the third, and the Islanders generally had a very impressive night after a slow start.

The 4-2 win keeps the Isles in playoff position in the East, with back-to-back games against the returning-from-Covid Sabres coming next week.

[NHL GameCenter | Game Sum | Event Sum | Natural Stat Trick | HockeyViz]

First Period: Sleeping until the wake-up call

The Islanders had no influence on the game early other than to keep it fairly cagey for the first 10 minutes. A series of icings was indicative of general low-risk behavior. After the Identity Line had a little bit of pressure, they got trapped in their own zone for way too long of a shift and you could feel what was coming.

Though Casey Cizikas managed to get off for a change, the Isles were all mixed up and allowed Brad Marchand to receive a pass all alone in the high slot, which he placed inside the far post to make it 1-0.

The Isles woke up a little after that and enjoyed some zone time, forced a couple of icings, and managed a few decent shots, but nothing that should’ve really given Tuukka Rask concern.

That seemed to get the Islanders on a productive footing, however, as their middle lines mounted continuing good forechecks and general chaos. The J-G Pageau line had a nice shift of cycling — ignited by a Mathew Barzal rush before he changed and the Isles regrouped — that led to the equalizer.

The goal came when Ryan Pulock walked down the right boards to catch a rim, send to the front of the net, and then both Pageau and Leo Komarov whacked away at it. The rink initially gave credit to Komarov, but it was clearly Pageau’s stick that made contact.

Four minutes later, Jordan Eberle gave the Isles a 2-1 lead on an innocent shot of a 3-on-3 rush. It was a shot that should not have gone in, and might have even been going slightly wide. Rask dropped his right pad to direct the puck away and instead it caromed in off the inside of his pad.

Gracias:

The Brock Nelson line continued its effort to match Pageau’s recent signs of life, and nearly made it a two-goal lead with a rebound try from Nelson down low. Overall, the Islanders continued pressing and ended up outshooting the Bruins 15-7 for the period.

The Bruins also lost Jakub Zboril with an upper body injury, leaving them with five defensemen for the rest of the night. One of them, John Moore, was making his season debut.

Second Period: We want to win but we’re shy

The Bruins’ pushback began right off the bat in the second period, thought it didn’t pay off until late in the period. After the initial Boston surge, the Islanders made another good period of it and had chances to extend their lead. One of them, from an unlikely combo: Brock Nelson off a turnover feeding Matt Martin all alone on Rask.

The Isles handled a dangerous situation midway through when Adam Pelech was in the box for the first penalty kill of the game.

But late in the period, the Islanders were too sloppy and it ultimately cost them. Nick Ritchie caught an airborne pass at the blueline to walk in alone on Semyon Varlamov, but his shot hit the upper right joint of crossbar and post, and he just missed on the rebound.

A short time later, with a little over three minutes left in the period, the Nelson line lost an offensive zone faceoff as Adam Pelech pinched, which combined to let it become a 3-on-2 rush by the Bruins’ top line. Patrice Bergeron easily finished a pretty passing combo involving all three dangerous forwards. Textbook drill, classic mistake.

That left things tied at 2-2 heading into the third.

Third Period: Statement made

If you had those “we always lose to the Bruins, and we’ve blown our best chance to pull away” feelings entering the third, the Islanders did their best to change your mind. With 15 shots on goal in each of the first two periods, they continued to match the Bruins and push in the third frame.

That led to an opportunity, a penalty drawn, and an excellent power play. Mathew Barzal was key to all three parts.

First, Barzal streaked down the right wing and threatened to be in alone on Rask before David Pastrnak hooked him right as the Isles center prepared to shoot.

Then the Isles top guns put in a very hard-working power play shift to keep the puck alive on several sequences. On one of them, Barzal had a golden one-time chance from the left-wing circle but the puck rode high on him and rang around the boards. But the Isles kept the puck in, Jordan Eberle won a 2-on-1 puck battle along the right wing boards, then fed Anders Lee at the doorstep.

Lee knew well where Barzal was — the same spot from which he just missed a moment before — and spun to slip a perfect pass through the Bruins defense. This time Barzal didn’t miss, 3-2 for the Isles.

Your [fast food or bank sponsor] Turning Point of the Game came when the Bruins received their second power play off a sloppy high-sticking infraction by Eberle. That gave the Bruins a great chance to tie the game with under eight minutes to go.

Instead, Pageau and a much-maligned (by fans) linemate put the game away. Pageau won a battle at the blueline and almost got the puck out of the zone but for a collision. But Leo Komarov — fresh off clearing waivers again — came sweeping behind to the rescue, scooping up the puck and starting a rush.

Somehow, Pageau was up and even leading the rush without the puck, driving to the slot, where Komarov fed him with a perfect, subtle pass in stride. Pageau leaned like he would go left to get Rask moving, but instead shot straightaway and beat the Bruins goalie. The two pursuing Bruins — part of a five-forward unit — played defense like forwards who are just here for the fun part of a power play.

That made it 4-2 for the Isles with 5:28 to go. A minute still remained in the Bruins power play, but the rest of the way was formality.

Quick Thoughts

  • Another really effective game for Barzal, who continued what is now a career-high eight-game points streak.
  • On a related note, Barzal’s goal came on the power play, which has looked better lately. They haven’t had many opportunities to show it, but tonight’s lone opportunity was impressive and ended up making the difference.
  • That PK was good, too. Pageau and Komarov were the third pair of forwards to see the ice in that first minute, each grouping keeping the Bruins from getting a full setup. Very much a turning point, on what could have become a blown lead after Eberle’s penalty.
  • He “only” needed to make 28 saves, but I feel bad for not mentioning Varlamov much before now. It was another strong game from him, and of course the game could’ve looked completely different if he wasn’t solid and smartly positioned throughout the night.
  • It’s a weird line, that Komarov-Pageau-Oliver Wahlstrom trio, but Wahlstrom is doing a collection of good things, and it’s a relief that he’s retaining Barry Trotz’s trust right now. He also gets a couple of dangerous looks each night, so hopefully some points will follow.
  • That makes standings points in six consecutive games (3-0-3) for the Isles.
  • Those were Komarov’s first two points of the season, which is twice the number of points he’s logged since Feb. 11 (when he also had a two-point game).

Up Next

As noted, the Sabres return from their Covid hiatus to host the Islanders Monday and Tuesday. Big opportunity, could be a big swing.

How They Lined Up

No lineup surprises for the Isles. Anthony Beauvillier still not ready to return:

Lee - Barzal - Bailey
Dal Colle - Nelson - Eberle
Komarov - Pageau - Wahlstrom
Martin - Cizikas - Clutterbuck

Pelech - Pulock
Leddy - Mayfield
Greene - Dobson

Bruins:

Marchand - Bergeron - Pastrnak
Ritchie - Krejci - Smith
DeBrusk - Coyle - Bjork
Frederic - Kuraly - Wagner

Lauzon - McAvoy
Moore - Carlo
Zboril - Miller