photo credit: Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images
In the 2021 National Hockey League (NHL) campaign, the New York Islanders have dominated the Boston Bruins. After the Bruins had been sidelined for a week due to the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol, Boston had practiced only once since being shut down from any form of play, and that was on Wednesday.
The B’s came out anything but rusty. In fact, the seven-day rest Boston had seemed to actually help them. Barry Trotz’s Isles created very few high danger chances in the first twenty minutes of play. 11:42 into the first period, Boston drew first blood. Karson Kuhlman tallied his first goal of the year, with Long Island native Charlie McAvoy (15) and Anders Bjork (3) picked up assists. 15:37 into the first period, Casey Cizikas was sent to the penalty box for a trip against Bruins defenseman Connor Clifton. With just a few ticks remaining on Cizikas’ penalty, Steven Kamfer scored his first goal of the year. McAvoy (16) and David Krejci (16) were credited with the assists. The Bruins went into the first intermission with a 2-0 lead, taking advantage of the sluggish Isles.
After killing off a four-minute double-minor high sticking penalty that sent Scott Mayfield to the box, the Isles finally got the puck into the back of the net. Former Islander Jaroslav Halak came in for Tuukka Rask at the beginning of the second period. After the double minor expired, Leo Komarov led the rush, swung the puck to Mayfield, who attempted a shot. The shot hit a Bruins skate and bounced right to Jean-Gabriel Pageau, who rifled the puck into a somewhat open net. The Isles found life and their game in the middle frame and put their season-long second-period struggles to rest - for now, at least. Through the first forty minutes of play, Boston led the shot count 23-18, and the score; 2-1.
Despite getting outshot 9-7 in the final regulation frame, the Isles played their best hockey of the night. Josh Bailey was rewarded just 4:33 into the third when he scored his fifth goal of the season and tied the game at two goals apiece. Brock Nelson (7) and Nick Leddy (21) picked up assists. The teams exchanged chances the rest of the way. For the first time all game, New York took the lead 17:04 in. Oliver Wahlstrom stayed red hot and tallied his ninth goal of the season. Pageau (11) and Anthony Beauvillier (5) were credited with the assists on the goal. Just fifty-four seconds later (17:58 in), Anders Bjork netted his second goal of the season. Charlie Coyle and former Islander Chris Wagner were awarded assists. The Islanders were very sloppy towards the end of the period but were able to get to overtime safely.
At the beginning of the extra session, Pageau won the face-off. Nick Leddy rushed the puck, snuck past Coyle, and put the puck on the net. It trickled past Halak. Beauville flew to the net and tapped it home. He scored the overtime game-winner just a game ago in Philadelphia, the game-winning shootout goal against the Bruins on March 9th, and season-series clinching goal on Thursday night.
Trotz’s system held each member of the “perfection line” that consists of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and David Pastrnak to no points. The Isles persevered and locked it down defensively when needed. This was the first game with fans back in the stands at the TD Garden in Boston. The Isles turned the Bostonians and New Englanders from boisterous to taciturn. They got the two points, which is all the matters when all is said and done.
The Isles travel to Pittsburgh and will take on the Penguins on Saturday night. Puck drop is set for 7:00 PM Eastern Time.