Ilya Sorokin faced a barrage of shots all night and kept the Isles in it, but ultimately it wasn’t enough. The Isles reached the third period tied 2-2 despite a 30-12 shot differential to that point, and they had a power play early in the third period with a chance to get the lead. Instead, Charlie McAvoy scored what stood up as the game-winner shortly afterward.
Pastrnak completed his hat trick late in regulation, and an empty-net goal padded the score.
Sorokin ended up making 35 saves on 39 shots — the Bruins’ 40th shot was into the unattended net — but the Bruins took advantage of rebounds and screens to solve the Isles’ MVP of the first round.
It’s just one game, and much has been made of the Isles’ ability to absorb pressure and “hang around,” but: Even though they were tied with 14 minutes to go, Sorokin couldn’t save them. They’ll need a better approach and better showing from the skaters to win four of the next six games.
First Period: Gentlemanly exchange of power play goals
The fans returned to full-house viewing but on the ice the opening eight minutes or so were pretty mild. The teams played fast and hard but conservative, chipping and dumping upon gaining the red line and not getting a lot of sustained zone time.
That said, the Bruins had some of the better looks early on, none better than when Taylor Hall took a loose puck in the slot and sent a dangerous shot around Noah Dobson’s leg, but Ilya Sorokin kicked it away.
By the midway point, the it was picking up and the Bruins had a 10-2 official shot advantage (13-6 in attempts), and the biggest physical lick, a David Pastrnak run on Adam Pelech from behind. Pastrnak had also had the second best chance, a rebound from the opposite wing that Sorokin was well primed for.
Eleven minutes in, the Islanders had a shot deflect through the crease behind Tuukka Rask on a play that drew the first penalty, Charlie McAvoy hooking Brock Nelson.
That was followed by a bit of a shock: the Isles power play looked really good. They kept the puck in after multiple clearing attempts — Jordan Eberle with a key keep-in on the goal — and worked the left wing side where we miss Oliver Wahlstrom.
All that led to a clean point look for Noah Dobson, whose point shot was deflected in by Anthony Beauvillier to make it 1-0 at 11:48, 46 seconds into the power play.
Pastrnak had another great chance with about four minutes to go after the Isles misread a retrieval, but Pastrnak’s shot from the slot on a pass from behind the net hit Sorokin in the chest. On the ensuing faceoff, the Bruins won it but McAvoy stumbled over the puck, leaving Kyle Palmieri to lead a 2-on-1. But Palmieri was a little too obvious about loading up his shot, and Matt Grzeylcyk got his stick on it to deflect it out of play.
The Bruins appeared to be focusing on speeding up their rush out of the zone, though sometimes their errant passes would create chances, including an almost 2-on-1 for Josh Bailey and Nelson that fizzled when Bailey’s return pass bounced away. That was nearly costly, as Sorokin had to stop David Krejci on the counterattack.
Not long after, Andy Greene was sent off for a high stick, and the Bruins converted right away. Just seven seconds into the power play, and with 24 seconds left in the period, Pastrnak tied it at 1-1 by gathering a rebound and waiting for Sorokin to over-commit, then stepping to the right to open up an angle.
Boston's power play remains ridiculously good. pic.twitter.com/0BVNQvvC3t— SB Nation NHL (@SBNationNHL) May 30, 2021
So with that late goal, the first period finished 1-1, a missed opportunity for the Isles to have an edge after the Bruins outshot them by a possibly exaggerated 18-8.
Dobson played just 3:35 in the 1st. Only Komarov (3:33) played less. Trotz dropped to 5 D at some key times vs. Pitt, doing it early in this series. Big challenge for the other #Isles D-men.— Arthur Staple (@StapeAthletic) May 30, 2021
Second Period: Enduring the bombardment
The Bruins came out flying, stopped only by a penalty when Nick Ritchie hooked Travis Zajac at 2:37. But this time the Isles power play wasn’t as controlling and did not cash in. They did get a few good looks, but the Bruins stepped up to block them.
Right afterward, Scott Mayfield avoided a puck-over-the-glass penalty by the narrowest of margins. His oddly determined clear directly at the side glass from an absurdly close angle caught the very top of the glass before going out. Yikes.
The Bruins briefly lost Grzelcyk after a heavy hit by Komarov on what could’ve been called an icing. The Bruins defenseman appeared to bang his left knee into the boards on the collision and limped off. He went to the locker room, but he was back later in the period. No doubt reacting to the legal hit, Isle-for-a-week Chris Wagner attempted to discuss philosophy with Komarov late on the next shift, but he was having none of it.
They also appeared to lose Craig Smith, and for longer, possibly after a mid-ice hit he took from Cal Clutterbuck. Smith was missing shifts late in the second and not on the bench for the third.
The B’s just continued to pressure and pressure through the first half, with the top line breaking through to make it 2-1 at 11:08. Pastrnak fired home a wide-open rebound from a quick Patrice Bergeron shot. Don’t know if the full-splits Sorokin would’ve gotten it even without the slight redirection it took off Ryan Pulock’s butt.
Despite all appearances from momentum and what-not, the Bruins lead did not last long. Mathew Barzal and Leo Komarov had an exchange in tight, launched by a delightful series of Barzal moves, but the Isles #13 missed the return pass. Still, the Isles retained possession and Adam Pelech bombed a shot from the point off the bar and in to tie the game 2-2 at 12:34.
The Islanders survived a final-minute, extended shift in their own zone against the Bruins second line and then, mid-change, the top line, but escaped without conceding a goal.
After the horn, the usual tied-game displays of testosterone ensued: Matt Greene took exception to an after-the-buzzer bump by Brad Marchand, who may have been acting out (as toddlers do) since he was the last one to make the line change and join that final-shift fun. McAvoy took exception to a facewash from Pulock, who himself was taking exception to a McAvoy facewash of Beauvillier, who I’m sure also committed some offense requiring liberal applications of stinky leather.
Third Period: The branch finally breaks
The third period had a quieter start, though of course the Bruins top line remained infinitely terrifying. The first moment of note was the Bruins taking a too many men penalty four minutes in. On the power play, the Isles had some decent possession but Nick Leddy lost the handle on a pass right when they’d finally created space for a Pulock one-timer in the Wahlstrom spot. So the puck left the zone with no shot.
Don’t know if it was a factor on that play, but the ice looked terrible to me with pucks bouncing all game; the NBC crew started to comment on it and some complaints about standing water at the start of the third.
Anyway, the Isles had one more entry, but the Bruins took the lead again right after the penalty expired. A stretch pass found Ritchie coming out of the box, and led to a cycle and an open shot for McAvoy from the point. McAvoy’s shot found the far side of the net, as Sorokin was screened and looking around the wrong side of Pelech and Sean Kuraly.
The Isles then got a little of their own medicine as the Bruins shifted to stingily consuming time and defending the lead. One of the few times the Isles got sustained pressure to go with extended zone time, it ended with a brutal counterattack that sealed the game.
Thousands of fans at [Bank or Tire or Fleet Enema or Whatever] Garden finally got what they’ve been waiting for throughout the pandemic: A huge crowd, together for an intense game, and a chance to unleash hats in a late-game celebration as Pastrnak completed the hat trick.
The goal came with 4:10 left, Pastrnak overlapping a Hall pick on Dobson and using the resulting screen to beat Sorokin high.
The Isles pulled the goalie with a little under four minutes left, but after the Bruins were breaking out of the zone Barzal took a tripping penalty to end all that and put the Bruins on a power play.
For whatever reason, the Isles pulled Sorokin again when they got the puck out late in the power play, and promptly gave up an empty netter to Hall to finalize the score at 5-2.
- As expected, the Bruins top line was a major handful. And if they’re allowed to control play that much (as in: 19 shots) to the point that multiple Isles lines burn their minutes against them, it’s going to be an issue.
- The NBC broadcast speculated on this, and perhaps the Bruins’ answer to Sorokin’s athleticism was to send hard low shots to get juicy rebounds off his pads. Certainly the rebounds were plentiful, but then so was the overall shot volume.
- Very physical, but not a dirty start to the series. As feared, whoever wins may not have a lot in the tank for the next round unless they finish this one with days of rest to spare. Grzelcyk was nearly the first casualty of that, but Smith took that honor. We’ll see what off-day casualty reports may loom.
- Barzal will get crap for that late penalty, surely. He had an okay game, with some flashes and some difficult moments. Even though Komarov was part of one of his chances, with that handbrake on their wing it’s going to take some special plays for Barzal and Eberle to break through at even strength.
- Once again, the Beauvillier-Nelson-Bailey line provided the most consistent threat. They need something from others though. The Pageau line seemed limited by his ex-Devil wingers. Travis Zajac in particular just couldn’t get anything going but the safe dumps, but Kyle Palmieri also never found much space.
- I bet they stick with Sorokin for Game 2, but if that game goes the same way I could see them going back to Semyon Varlamov.
- Unrelated, but something everyone watching this game can appreciate: The Leafs lost in overtime in Montreal to force a Game 7 in that first-round series. Tee-hee-hee.
Game 2 is Monday night, 7:30 p.m. EDT in Boston. Incidentally, the league finally released the rest of the second round schedule (minus start times, of course):