The New York Islanders had defeated the Boston Bruins all four times that they faced them this season, with the caveat that all four games took place on Coliseum ice, where the Isles have lost only once in regulation. Tonight marked their first of four games at TD Garden.
They fell behind two goals early thanks to some goals from some unlikely Boston goal-scorers. But the Isles halved the deficit in the second and tied it early in the third before taking a brief lead late in the game. Annoyingly, the Bruins tied it less than a minute later to force overtime and earn a point, but Anthony Beauvillier ended overtime as quickly as it started, thanks to a little help from his friends.
The Islanders dressed the same skaters as they had the previous two games, meaning that Leo Komarov skated on the top line again. Semyon Varlamov started in goal for the first time since last Thursday against the Philadelphia Flyers.
Meanwhile, Tuukka Rask made his first start in nearly three weeks but left after the first period due to injury. Jaroslav Halak replaced him.
First Period: Slow Start for Both Teams, but a Quick Finish for Boston
The period began decently enough. An early scary moment occurred when Adam Pelech fell while skating backward and challenging a hard-charging David Pastrnak. Pastrnak flung the puck toward the front of the net, but Varlamov grabbed the puck amid the scramble.
That chance did not go down as a shot-on-goal and, in fact, the two defense-first squads entered the first commercial break without registering a SOG. The first one of the game came when Pelech threw a point shot through traffic that tipped off the stick of one Bruin and the arm of another before Tuukka Rask got over to block it.
Karson Kuhlman broke the ice with a little flip from the boards. Charlie McAvoy lobbed the puck in his direction from the opposite half-wall and Kuhlman recovered it. He turned around and, with Jean-Gabriel Pageau approaching, tossed the puck toward the net. Varlamov could not see the puck through the traffic and it painted the top corner. The Bruins led 1–0.
Shortly thereafter, Boston received a man-advantage when Casey Cizikas tripped Connor Clifton while reaching for the puck in the offensive zone. The Isles had nearly killed off the penalty but, near the end of it, failed to clear. David Krejci recovered the puck and got it back to McAvoy at the point. McAvoy fed it over to Steven Kampfer for a one-time knuckle-puck that beat Varlamov cleanly. 2–0 Bruins.
Right after the second goal, Michael Dal Colle took a tripping penalty, of which thirteen seconds carried over to the second period. During the kill, Cizikas probably should have earned himself a double-minor for high-sticking Patrice Bergeron and causing some bleeding, but the officials missed it.
It was not so much that the Isles played poorly or that Boston flew. A couple of fluky goals by way of a little bit of weak coverage in their own zone bit them.
Second Period: A Rare Strong Islanders’ Second Period
As stated above, Rask started the game, but Halak took over for him in the second. Rask was ruled out with an upper-body injury; Rask had been making his first start since March 7 against the New Jersey Devils.
The remaining thirteen seconds of penalty time expired and Ryan Pulock barreled over the blue line and around a Bruins defender. Pageau joined him on the rush. Pulock fed the puck over to him and the puck skipped over Pageau’s stick. It was a shame, too, because he would have had a wide-open net.
Scott Mayfield high-sticked Bergeron deep in his own zone. He drew blood, though it probably did not take much after his previous cut at the end of the first period. On the first face-off of the kill, Cizikas took a high-stick that went uncalled. Cizikas got tripped in the neutral zone, which also went uncalled, and then was interfered with on his way back to the bench. No call there, either—truly awful officiating, and I am not usually one to complain. And the entire Islanders’ bench took note. But, right as the double-minor ended, the Isles got their revenge.
Leo Komarov(!) led a slow rush into the Bruins’ zone, joined by Mayfield exiting the box. Komarov put the puck off Mayfield’s skate and it popped over to Pageau trailing behind. Pageau did not miss the wide-open net that time. 2–1 Bruins.
Pageau cuts the Bruins lead in half pic.twitter.com/Ir5HEJ50sd— Isles on MSG+2 Tonight (@IslesMSGN) March 26, 2021
The goal gave the Isles some life. For example, on one stretch of extended zone time, the Isles forwards were Komarov, Pageau, and Jordan Eberle. After one attempt toward the net, Pageau regained the puck and skated out to the blue line. He slung the puck toward the front of the net, where it dropped for Eberle. Only Halak’s quick recovery prevented Eberle from scoring.
During another stretch, Josh Bailey fired a quick shot off the rush, and the Isles grabbed the puck back. After working it around, Dal Colle one-timed a wrist-shot from the slot that Halak somehow managed to block.
Third Period: Always the Islanders’ Period
Early in the period, the Islanders evened the score. Nick Leddy battled along the boards and flicked the puck back to Bailey at the blue line. Bailey chipped it to Brock Nelson in the corner and then cruised diagonally into the slot, catching Nelson’s feed and rifling it past Halak to tie the game.
Brock with the feed and Bailey with the rip!— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) March 26, 2021
All tied at 2 with a few ticks under 14 minutes to play! pic.twitter.com/tDQR11XUL7
The Islanders received their first power play when Brad Marchand tugged on Pulock’s jersey. Nelson’s unit, with Leddy, Bailey, Pageau, and Oliver Wahlstrom, spent the entire two minutes in the Boston zone. Wahlstrom had the best chance on one of his lethal one-timers and Halak, who was deep in his net, managed to get in the way of his shot.
Most of this period belonged to the Islanders, and for a brief moment, they were in the driver’s seat for a victory. With the Isles’ third line pressuring, Pageau grabbed the puck behind the net and pitched it toward the crease. After Halak deflected it, Wahlstrom backhanded it into the top corner past the Boston goaltender.
Wahlstrom gave us the lead, but the Bruins tied it right back up— Isles on MSG+2 Tonight (@IslesMSGN) March 26, 2021
We still in this pic.twitter.com/t7Gei4HZ4E
However, less than a minute later, with Barry Trotz’s normal shutdown players on the ice, some confusion in their own zone allowed Charlie Coyle to feed Anders Bjork cutting in toward the net to tie the game. To overtime we went.
Overtime: That Was Easy
Overtime lasted only 0:21. After earning possession off the opening face-off courtesy of a winning draw by Pageau, Leddy blazed through the neutral zone and around Boston defenders and fired a shot at Halak. He made the initial save but the puck squirted behind him. Anthony Beauvillier, charging hard up the opposite wing, cleaned up the loose change and gave the Isles the extra point.
ARE YOU KIDDING!?— Isles on MSG+2 Tonight (@IslesMSGN) March 26, 2021
BEAUVILLIER WINS IT AGAIN IN OT pic.twitter.com/tki88o3Bos
Notes and Thoughts
- Beauvillier has gained a reputation as a streaky player, and that is probably a fair classification at this point in his career. But man, he does not just get hot; he gets clutch.
- Speaking of clutch, Wahlstrom scored yet again, tallying a late go-ahead goal in his hometown. In so doing, he corralled a loose puck, put it on his backhand, and roofed it in tight with Bruins bearing down on him. For a 20-year-old not to double-clutch and misfire in those situations, man... I don’t remember an Islanders player with that kind of confidence in that kind of moment, let alone a kid that cannot yet drink legally. It was his ninth of the season. Butch predicted it first, I think, but I will guarantee it: he will lead this team in goals this season.
- Pageau recorded an excellent three-point game. He has had a field day playing against the Bruins and the Buffalo Sabres, two teams that he faced many times while playing with the Ottawa Senators.
- You may have noticed that I highlighted the three members of the third line. They have formed an incredible trio that should not be broken up unless they want to run Wahlstrom on the top line.
- Dal Colle, despite his penalty, had a strong game. He had another shot-on-goal, which is another nice step for him. But even more importantly, he did all the little things that Trotz wants to see: using his big body to forecheck, take opponents out of the play, and battle to retrieve the puck for his more talented linemates. I know that his spot in the lineup could potentially be upgraded with more scoring, but I really believe that he brings something to the game that nobody else could, despite the lack of scoring.
The Islanders finish their four-game road trip in Western Pennsylvania on Saturday and Monday. The Pittsburgh Penguins will host them at 7:00 p.m. both nights. The former will be on local TV, the latter on national TV.