This was an excellent playoff sport performed in an excellent playoff setting that took a piece out of the losers and elevated the winners.
Probably for at the least a number of hours.
Because there’s psychological toughness working via the veins of each the Islanders and the Bruins, who performed a basic on the Old Barn on Thursday, a 2-1 affair selected Brad Marchand’s goal at 3:36 of time beyond regulation to give his workforce a 2-1 edge on this second-round sequence that picks again up on the Coliseum on Saturday.
The Bruins might’ve ought to’ve, would’ve had this one in regulation, taking a 1-0 lead into the third after which outshooting the Islanders 19-4 via the primary 14:30 of the interval, launching a bevy of pictures at Semyon Varlamov throughout an influence play halfway via.
But the goaltender was distinctive, the Islanders stood their floor and as soon as the edges have been again even, Mathew Barzal by some means tucked one in previous Tuukka Rask to knot the rating on this one the place explosions of ability have been wrapped inside packets of will.
Being again within the barn meant extra than simply having the blast of noise from the closest factor but to a hockey full home we’ve had in these elements. It meant, after all, that the Islanders owned final change on the matchups. Hence, Barry Trotz had his choose towards the Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-David Pastrnak line that takes up a lot area in an opposing coach’s mind.
Bergeron and his playmates confronted three completely different strains on their first three shifts (one after the other, naturally, although someday one coach will attempt to sneak 9 forwards on within the match) earlier than deciding on the unit with Jean-Gabriel Pageau flanked by Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac.
The Islanders’ checkers did their half and never solely towards the Bergeron unit. Interestingly, Bergeron missed a few shifts and completed with 4:57 of first-period ice whereas his wingers every obtained greater than 6:00. The Islanders didn’t solely negate the B’s prime trio, they restricted Boston to solely 5 pictures on Varlamov and merely eight unblocked makes an attempt.
But if checking was the secret, it was a back-check from Taylor Hall that triggered the lone goal within the opening 20 minutes. For Hall, not a very enthusiastic 200×85 participant in Buffalo till he was traded on the deadline (or in New Jersey final season), got here again to monitor down and strip Barzal of the puck on the middle ice brand earlier than gathering the puck 10 toes contained in the defensive blue line.
Hall moved it shortly to Matt Grzelcyk, whose sprint into the zone preceded a feed to Hall on the precise facet. The one-time Hart winner despatched a phenomenal feed into the slot for Craig Smith, who had a while and area upon discovering a seam within the protection and went up prime, glove facet on Varlamov at 5:52 of the primary interval.
Interesting, isn’t it, that whereas there isn’t any query concerning the workforce’s preparation and readiness, the Islanders have allowed objectives throughout the opening 6:00 of a sport in 5 of their 9 matches. Four of the early ones have been surrendered by Varlamov.
Maintaining the Pageau-Bergeron match via the second interval, the Islanders did a wonderful job stifling the middle and his line. Indeed, the B’s massive weapons have been hemmed in their very own zone for a lot of the interval. And it wasn’t solely the massive weapons pressured to defend, that utilized to the Bruins en masse via the primary 14 minutes of the second.
But for all of their offensive-zone puck possession, the Islanders simply couldn’t get to the within and have been saved to the perimeter by a Bruins workforce as comfy taking part in in its personal finish as any workforce ever coached by John Tortorella.
Time after time the Islanders would pin within the Bruins, time after time the Bruins would preserve their construction and self-discipline. The Islanders created two Grade A possibilities within the interval, one with Barzal high-stepping from the left to the entrance of the online earlier than the puck rolled off his stick and skittered simply huge with below eight minutes to go, the opposite when Rask denied Anthony Beauvillier from the bumper place on the ability play about two minutes earlier than that.
Despite the ice-tilt for a lot of the interval, the Islanders might muster solely 12 makes an attempt at five-on-five, with solely seven unblocked. The workforce was working exhausting, that may be a given, however was not in a position to make it significantly exhausting on Rask, who was referred to as upon to make a proper shoulder save on Pageau from 12 toes with 3:50 remaining within the interval.
Finally in a position to generate an assault after being bottled up for therefore lengthy, the Bruins generated a few big-time possibilities towards Varlamov, who made the save of the sport — nicely, at the least of the primary 40 minutes — by transferring to his proper to deny David Krejci’s one-timer off a feed from Hall with 5:50 remaining. Varlamov additionally got here up massive on Nic Ritchie’s drive from the slot with 3:00 on the clock.
And so it wound down … into the third, 1-0 the opposite means.