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Islanders 5, Bruins 4: Nelson’s insurance goal proves pivotal as Isles hang on to win Game 5

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They like to make us sweat, but the New York Islanders were able to close out a nerve-wracking Game 5 on the road to give two shots at clinching a Conference Final berth.

New York Islanders v Boston Bruins - Game Five
Heading back to the Coli in the driver’s seat
Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

Well this was quite the game. There must be a full moon, or mercury in gatorade or something, because the New York Islanders scored three power play goals, something they haven’t done since that insane 5 minute major against the Detroit Red Wings over three years ago.

Those three power play goals helped the Islanders built up a 4-2 lead, then a 5-2 lead after Brock Nelson scored early in the third period, but the Bruins would charge back to make it 5-4. The Bruins definitely dictated play for the vast majority of the game, but those pesky Islanders bent but didn’t break, and now they’ll have a shot to clinch a spot in the Conference Final at the Coliseum on Wednesday night.

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First Period

David Pastrnak opened the scoring just a minute and a half in, capitalizing after Beauvillier was (extremely totally definitely cleanly never a penalty in sight) hounded by Brad Marchand behind the net, leading to him coughing up the puck that made its way to Pastrnak. He’s got a laser of a shot, and as annoying as it was to see Varlamov give up another early goal, this one really wasn’t on him.

After that first goal, the Bruins smelled blood, and Marchand nearly made it 2-0 after he blew an amazing chance on a wide open net, sending the puck through the crease instead.

It was all Bruins in the first 10 minutes, though the Islanders could have been on the power play after Nick Ritchie (fair game, definitely not a penalty, not in my NHL!) stuck his elbow out and hit Scott Mayfield in the head while he was on his knees trying to play the puck. No call was given there, but the Islanders did get one of the weaker calls of the night, a slashing call on Sean Kuraly after he impeded Noah Dobson’s ability to get a shot off.

On the power play, JG Pageau won a faceoff, the puck got to Dobson, who found Mat Barzal who sniped it past Rask into the ol’ toy department to tie the game at one apiece.

Second Period

Curtis Lazar headed to the Bruins’ room after a hard hit on Adam Pelech against the boards where he came out the worst of it. Matt Grzelcyk was sent to the box after skating into the play in front of the net seemingly for the entire purpose of crosschecking Leo Komarov. Josh Bailey, elite playoff performer, set up Kyle Palmieri at the very end of the power play to make it 2-1. Bailey’s pass bounced off both of Connor Clifton’s skates, and made it right to Palmieri, who had a tap in.

The Isles were pressuring after going up 2-1, and after a little bit of Bruins zone time, Pageau made an amazing clear that set up a partial 2 on 1 with Zajac and Palmieri. Zajac couldn’t get the pass through, but then the Islanders were able to keep the puck in the zone and get Palmieri alone on Rask in front, but Rask made the save.

Pastrnak hit the post off the rush, but the Islanders couldn’t breathe easy about that near-miss because Marchand would work around both Ryan Pulock and Brock Nelson (who Cassidy targeted in the “Perfection Line” matchup) and got Varlamov out of position and scored.

Varlamov had to make some key saves in this game to keep the Isles in it, including a Bergeron shot off a McAvoy rebound, and a shot on Taylor Hall after a turnover.

It was all Bruins after they tied the game, but Anthony Beauvillier would make a great play behind the net to find Pageau, who made a nifty pass off to Josh Bailey in front who made it 3-2.

One of Trotz’s key adjustments in this game was swapping Pageau and Nelson’s lines, allowing him to get Pageau on more against Bergeron, because Nelson was absolutely crushed by that line all game. That change also paid dividends here, jumpstarting Beauvillier a bit and setting up Bailey’s goal.

The Islanders went to the power play again, on a very blatant cross checking call against Chris Wagner, who took his stick to Barzal’s head.

On that power play, Jordan Eberle would make it 4-2 after Barzal got him the puck with a fantastic cross ice feed.

Inevitably the Isles would be sent to the box, because makeup calls are required and because Bruce Cassidy might have literally spontaneously combusted if they didn’t happen, and so Eberle went to the box for what was a weak slashing call. The power play was split between two periods, though, and the Islanders survived the first 1:10 to close out the second frame up 4-2.

Third Period

Curtis Lazar was officially ruled out of the game, so the Bruins were missing their fourth line center, and had a new goalie in net to boot. Jeremy Swayman came in for Rask, who has apparently been battling an injury all series and finally looked mortal in this game.

Varlamov was the best penalty killer, making some key saves, and Pastrnak hit another post to keep it 4-2.

Swayman made a big save on Eberle as he came out of the box, but he couldn’t stop Brock Nelson’s shot after a great pass from Beauvillier and a fantastic keep in at the blue line from Pelech. That 5-2 scoreline seemed like it was just insurance, but it was more important than we would’ve thought at the time.

Following Nelson’s goal, the Bruins really took over, and I think every Islander fan was just hoping we’d be able to hang on as it seemed like Bergeron and friends were on for every other shift.

Marchand and Pastrnak had a 2 on 1 but Pastrnak fumbled the shot after a great defensive play by Pelech, but then Pelech was sent to the box after an extremely weak hooking call that was even worse than the weak slashing call.

Pastrnak scored his second of the game on the power play to make it 5-3.

Varlamov was key after that goal, making saves on Hall and Pastrnak to keep the Islanders in it. Then Bergeron very obviously sent the puck over the glass and the Islanders went back on the power play.

The Bruins got the penalty kill right this time, as the Islanders played the man advantage more to burn two minutes than anything else.

After the Bruins’ kill, a Craig Smith shot went wide and Taylor Hall nearly picked up the rebound but his shot just missed. Palmieri had a chance on Swayman but his shot ended up leaving the zone and setting up a Marchand and Bergeron 2 on 1. They got greedy with the passing, and Pulock was able to break it up, and then Marchand got a good shot off anyway that Varlamov had to stop.

David Krejci, who probably should have been suspended for spearing Barzal but got off with a $5,000 fine, but is definitely not capable of dirty plays, no sir, got a piece of a shot in front after Varlamov made a good save and the puck went in off Varlamov’s skate to make it 5-4.

At that point, Barry Trotz called a time out, and the Islanders were better, closing out the game even as the Bruins pulled Swayman with about a minute and a half to go.

It was nervy the whole way, but ultimately the Islanders would leave Boston with a Game 5 win in hand, 5-4.

Quick Thoughts

  • Well friends, we have Bruce Cassidy absolutely rattled. The guy spent his post-game press conference talking about how Bergeron deserves more respect, and how the Islanders have somehow magically created a narrative where we’re actually more like the New York Saints. And the refs need to do a better job of not listening to outside influences, whatever that means, because as we all know if the fix is in for any team in the National Hockey League, it certainly wouldn’t be a big market Original Six team.
  • Cassidy now follows a long list of people who have had their brains melted by the pesky Islanders, including James Dolan, who fired the President and GM of the Rangers in part because of the big loss to the Islanders that virtually eliminated them from playoff contention and the entire Pittsburgh Penguins organization, namely Tristan Jarry, Mike Sullivan, and high-ranking official Mario Lemieux, and probably more people who just seem to hate the Islanders for no good reason.
  • Lotta big games from key players tonight. Barzal’s continued his hot streak, Jordan Eberle and Brock Nelson got back on the scoresheet, Josh Bailey had a goal and an assist and continues to climb up the leaderboard for postseason points for the Islanders organization, and Anthony Beauvillier looked a little more like his normal self, playing key roles in the Bailey and Nelson goals.
  • Bruce Cassidy, to his credit, spent a lot of time targeting a matchup of Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak against Beauvillier-Nelson-Bailey, and when the lines swapped, it seemed specifically Nelson. Can’t fault him for that, because Nelson looked awful when on the ice with those guys. Home ice and last change are huge as we head into Game 6.
  • Ultimately it’s a little rich for the team that’s been fined twice for dirty plays to complain about officiating when they received a total of 2 penalty minutes for all of that. It’s possible they even get another fine for Ritchie’s elbow on Mayfield, or Wagner’s crosscheck on Barzal. Neither team is made up of saints but it’s very weird seeing the narrative of “the Bruins are getting screwed by the refs.” Where?
  • Varlamov was truly fantastic tonight. Yeah, there was a softie with the Krejci goal, and he let up another early one, but the guy came up big when he needed to, and we were able to provide enough offensive support to not let that go to waste.

Up Next

Next, it’s time to get loud, as we head back to the Coliseum for Game 6. We could see the Isles make it to the Conference Final in back to back years for the first time since the 1983 and 1984 playoffs, I believe. It’s been a long time. Let’s gooooooooo!!!!!!