Similar to how they finished out the first round, the Isles took control as the series returned home, rolling four lines, pressuring the opponent’s battered blueline, and establishing a lead that they weren’t about to relinquish.
A series of opportunistic goals helped the Isles take control in the second period and enter the third with a three-goal lead. Though they gave up a power play goal to bring the Bruins within two, the Islanders locked it down and, befitting a Coliseum party, picked up two late empty net goals to blow the roof off once more.
The Isles kept the Bruins to just 25 shots, including only 5 in the third period. They’d won the war of attrition through the first five games, and tonight they came to pick up their reward.
After the handshake line, the Isles saluted the fans, who chanted “New York Saints!” in appreciation, and in mocking nod to Bruce Cassidy’s post-Game 5 officiating lament.
Islanders, Saints, “not the better team,” whatever you call them, they’ve sent the Bruins home.
First Period: Role Reversal
Things opened with the intensity you’d expect, though this time the Islanders had the slight edge in chances early in the game and forced some early work for Tuukka Rask. For a change, the Islanders made it through the first eight minutes without conceding, and even got the opening goal at 8:52.
J-G Pageau won the offensive zone faceoff against Charlie Coyle, and the Islanders worked the puck low in the corner and then high to the point. Travis Zajac won the positional battle with Charlie McAvoy in front of Rask, scooped up the rebound and beat Rask stick side.
The Islanders got into penalty trouble late in the period, which proved costly. Anthony Beauvillier took an unnecessary risk with his stick at McAvoy’s skate as the Bruins defenseman went to retrieve a dump-in behind the net. The Isles got important clears to get through most of that kill, but Casey Cizikas put his stick in front of Taylor Hall’s legs in the neutral zone, and Hall went full swan to ensure a tripping call.
Boston couldn’t convert on the 13 seconds of 5-on-3, but they orchestrated some masterful passing to tie it with Cizikas still in the box. David Pastrnak took a David Krejci pass from the slot and faked a one-timer, instead sending a sharp pass over to Brad Marchand. Marchand was wide open, and Semyon Varlamov was out to play Pastrnak’s would-be shot.
With 2:24 to go in the first, the game was tied 1-1. That score held to the intermission, after Kyle Palmieri rang the crossbar from the high slot just before the horn sounded.
Second Period: Another Coliseum Eruption
A controversial moment that will draw a lot of attention came when Kyle Palmieri reverse-hit McAvoy with a shoulder to the jaw behind the Bruins net. Based on his reaction, Palmieri appeared to be upset about a routine slash or something as McAvoy covered him on the scoring chance, but McAvoy had let up after the puck went away and was completely off guard when Palmieri caught him.
No idea why the refs, who appeared to be right there, didn’t call anything, but I’m sure Bruce Cassidy will have theories. Maybe the league will fine Palmieri, as they’ve done for the Bruins’ uncalled headshots this series.
Anyway, McAvoy was down for some treatment but returned about six minutes later. Meanwhile, the Islanders received the only call of the period at 2:18, Karson Kulhman going off for tripping. But the Isles didn’t manage a shot on goal and then gave up pressure the other way once the power play expired.
Instead of foreshadowing doom, however, it set the table for one of the more entertaining periods in an already fun Isles playoff run.
A minute after the power play expired, the Isles retook the lead with a sweet transition through the neutral zone and a forced turnover from Brock Nelson. Matt Grzelcyk had stepped up to try to intercept Josh Bailey’s bank pass, but Nelson pressured him, poked the puck around him, and went in alone on Rask. Nelson pulled backhand to forehand to get Rask moving and released the quick shot mid-stride to make it 2-1.
The next several minutes returned to the tight, trench-battling, see-saw flow we’ve seen through much of this series whenever a team has a one-goal lead.
But at 12:39, the Coliseum ghosts had their say. On a routine dump-in, the Bruins fished the puck from behind their net, but the pass bounced off the intended target’s skate, and Josh Bailey pounced. The longest-serving Islander fed Nelson in the low slot, where he made a quick move and slipped it under Rask’s pad to make it 3-1.
Under four minutes later, at 16:07, Palmieri cashed in on an even better bounce. After good Isles pressure and a decisive Adam Pelech keep-in, Matt Grzelcyk gathered a rebound in front of Rask but was too poised...Palmieri was waiting. Palmieri poke-checked, it hit Rask’s pad, and then Palmieri popped the rebound over and in to make it 4-1.
Before all that, there were some hairy moments that could’ve changed the equation. Two of note were when Varlamov went out to play the puck and was intercepted, and Dobson had to block a shot from the goal line. Another came when a pile of Bruins crashed the net and Varlamov had lost his stick, but the Isles steered it out of trouble.
But the burst of goals sent the crowd to new heights, chants of “Tuu-kka” ringing as the teams left for the second intermission.
Third Period: Please don’t make this interesting, we want to party
The Islanders under Barry Trotz have a confidence with the lead that sometimes bleeds into over-comfort. That was the case early in the third, as they weren’t exactly sloppy, and they did several good things, but they still took some unnecessary risks and soft decisions that allowed the Bruins space, including one where Taylor Hall had a 2-on-1 but was too indecisive to make it matter.
So that early softness didn’t cost them at even strength exactly, but Matt Martin took a tripping penalty in the neutral zone and the Bruins converted. It was Marchand again, backhanding from his knee after more good work from that unit.
That made the lead just 4-2 with 14 minutes left to go.
The NBC broadcast reported that Trotz may have barked at the team a bit after that goal, and the next several shifts were certainly more assertive for the Isles.
You know what happened the rest of the way. The Isles were tenacious and frustrating, the Bruins were desperate, and it didn’t matter. The Bruins weren’t coming back.
Cal Clutterbuck poured the first salt-in-the-wound empty netter to make it 5-2 with 59 seconds left.
It got to 6-2 after Ryan Pulock’s clear from the Islanders zone took a Bounce of Karmic Justice and went the whole length into the empty net.
The Islanders will face the Tampa Bay Lightning in the third round, a repeat of the Stanley Cup semifinal from last year’s playoff bubble in Edmonton. This time both teams will have a similar amount of rest — no immediate trip to Alberta — though the Isles will be without their captain Anders Lee.