Islanders Edge: Lopsided third period leads to Isles beatdown of Bruins
PHOTO CREDIT: (AP PHOTO/ADAM HUNGER)
Legendary New York Islanders coach Al Arbour once said, "This is a hump you have to get over, and it usually comes in the first series. You get over the hump, and you're on a roll". This describes the tumultuous beginning of the New York Islanders' season and the struggles they have had against the big bad Boston Bruins in recent years. At home at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum Thursday, the New York Islanders got over the hump and got on their roll.
From puck drop, this affair was tightly contested. For the first minute or so, Boston dominated. It wasn't the start Barry Trotz or the Islanders wanted or envisioned, and just 1:02 into the game, they found themselves trailing. Nick Ritchie tucked a pass home, beating Isles goaltender Semyon Varlamov. Jakub Zboril and Charlie Coyle picked up assists. New York responded, and they did it quickly. 2:14 later and 3:16 into the first frame, Adam Pelech scored his first goal of the season. This goal was unassisted. Both teams exchanged chances, and Boston outshot the Isles 15-10 in the first twenty minutes of play. However, at 12:39 in, Mathew Barzal's perfect transition led to his 7th goal of the season. Nick Leddy picked up his tenth assist of the season, and goalie Semyon Varlamov also had an assist, his first of the season and eight of his career.
New York stood its ground in the second, despite being outshot. 11:36 in Craig Smith tied the game with his fourth goal of the season on one of the luckiest bounces you'll ever see. The puck hit Matt Martin's stick and deflected behind Varlamov. Jake DeBrusk and Urho Vaakanainen were credited with assists. Once again, we had an intense hockey game between the Bruins and Islanders going into the final regulation frame. We are all aware of the fast, intense third periods these teams have battled out in the past.
This third period was the exact opposite of that. 5:41 into the first period, Anthony Beauvillier scored his first goal of the season and put the blue and orange up 3-2. 5:04 later, on another brilliant Barzal transition, Jordan Eberle beat Bruins goaltender and former Islander Jaroslav Halak for his eighth goal of the season. Barzal and Anders Lee both got the assists. The Islanders continued to dominate. When Casey Cizikas went to the box at 12:04 into the third, the Isles gave the Bruins' force of a power-play nothing. Just twenty seconds into the power-play, Jean-Gabriel Pageau scored a short-handed goal. This was his eighth goal of the season. Pelech was credited with the lone assist on Pageau's fourth goal in his last three games against Boston. What a period! Just when we thought they were done, they proved to be just getting started. 14:44 in, Anders Lee scored his ninth goal of the season by cleaning up a loose puck in Halak's crease. Leddy picked up another assist, and Noah Dobson was awarded his seventh on the season and the primary assist on the goal. Then less than two minutes later, Oliver Wahlstrom clinched his first career point streak with his second goal of the season. Ryan Pulock and Casey Cizikas had the assists.
The final score was 7-2 in favor of New York, of course, and despite being outshot in the first two periods, New York narrowly won the shot count 37-36. The Islanders outhit the Bruins 26-24. Both teams went 2/2 on the penalty kill.
New York has now won five of its last seven games, dating back to February 13th, a game also against the Bruins. This is the hockey needed night after night to defeat strong opponents, make playoff runs, and even win a Stanley Cup. The Islanders made the Bruins look hapless and frankly silly in the third period, playing by far their best game so far this season. Mathew Barzal has blossomed into something that is nothing short of a superstar. With a determined sixty-minute effort night after night, New York's expectations will be set higher, and this franchise will remain on the map. Does it get even better from here? With the emergence of Ilya Sorokin, Oliver Wahlstrom, Noah Dobson, Kieffer Bellows, Samuel Bolduc, Bode Wilde, Simon Holmstrom, Robin Salo, and Otto Koivula, all signs point that way. The Isles are in contention, and they are there to stay.
They look to carry the momentum into the next game on Saturday at the Coliseum and get revenge against a team they have recently struggled against; the Pittsburgh Penguins. Puck drop is set for 7:00 PM Eastern Time.