DEPTH. It’s the name of the game.
Either you have it, or you don’t. And on any given night it can come and it can go as easily as the puck slides across the ice.
For the Islanders, Saturday night’s 4-2 victory over the Boston Bruins at Nassau Coliseum was a direct result of the team’s impressive scoring depth as they received contributions from up and down the lineup; something they had been lacking for much of the season.
As Barry Trotz said after the game: “If we play like we did tonight, we’re going to be a hard team to beat.”
The last time the Islanders and Bruins met was the third game of the season way back on January 18th; a game which the Isles won 1-0 in Uniondale. And since then, the Big Bad Bruins hadn’t lost a single game in regulation.
Could the Boys from Long Island turn the trick twice?
It had been 14-years since the Nassaumen last beat the Bruins twice in the same season at Nassau Coliseum. With eight games against Boston on the docket this season rather than the usual three — four of the eight at home — the Islanders would have had two additional cracks at that elusive second win.
(Spoiler Alert: They didn’t need the extra two-games).
The first period began with the Isles looking like they were chasing the single-game record for most icings in a game. Two quick icings as well as two quick offside calls had the Long Island skaters out of sorts and allowed the Bruins to establish the pace of play early on.
Several more icings followed before the Long Island skaters began to find their game; unfortunately for them, the Bruins struck paydirt first.
At the 8:41 mark of the opening period, Boston hemmed the Islanders in their own zone as the home team’s skaters could not get off the ice for fresh legs and the Perfection Line made them pay.
Patrice Bergeron, from below the goal line, sent a backhand pass to the middle of the ice, right to a streaking Brad Marchand and the B’s elite agitator did not miss with his wrist-shot past Semyon Varlamov. 1-0 Bruins.
Of note on the goal, the Isles second defense pair of Nick Leddy and Scott Mayfield were on the ice and that’s noteworthy because of all of Barry Trotz’s defensive pairs they have the lowest allowed save-percentage. (Thanks to Athur Staple and The Athletic for the reporting on that stat).
Lucky for the Islanders, they found their legs after Marchand’s goal and really began to push the pace, building up a nice shots on goal advantage over Boston.
2:55 after Marchand’s goal, J.G. Pageau got the Isles on the board when he cleaned up a loose puck in Tuukka Rask’s crease to tie the game at 1. On the play, Ryan Pulock came flying down the right side and sent the puck to the front of the net where it was met by several players. It went off Pageau’s skate, sat for a second at the top of the crease and then was sent into the back of the net by Pageau’s shot.
The goal settled down the Isles and really gave them some much needed jump.
Then, just 3:40 after Pageau’s goal, Jordan Eberle continued his hot start to the season by scoring his sixth-goal of the season when his innocent looking shot from the top of the right face-off circle went off the inside of Rask’s pads and right into the net for the 2-1 Islanders lead.
As Butch Goring explained on the MSG Network broadcast, Eberle was simply shooting for a rebound, but instead got a goal.
It’s like the old Baseball adage that if you look for a single, you can still hit a home run. But I digress.
With a one-goal lead on the board, The Boys from Long Island continued to buzz around the ice all the way until the final four-minutes of the second period. Quite an accomplishment against the powerful Bruins.
However, the Bruins weren’t going to stand for that sort of titled ice situation and with just 3:09 left in the second period Patrice Bergeron received Brad Marchand’s pass in between the hash marks of the Isles’ zone and fired a wrist-shot over the blocker of Varlamov to tie the game at 2 and sap the Nassaumen of some of their momentum heading into the crucial third period.
The third period began with some sloppiness on the part of the Islanders but that disappeared quickly.
Then came the spark plug himself, Mathew Barzal. Riding a career-high tying seven-game points streak, Barzal had been held off the scoresheet through 45-minutes of game time. His “drought” wouldn’t reach minute 46.
Barzal used his speed to draw a hooking penalty against David Pastrnak and the Islanders went to their first (and only) power-play of the night. And it was on that power-play that Barzal upped his streak to a career-high eight games as he scored a power-play goal off a one-timer from the left face-off circle to give the home team the lead. 3-2 Islanders.
The mighty Bruins tried to assert themselves but the Isles had other ideas. And just to complete the display of their depth, the Islanders penalty-kill got in the fun when Jordan Eberle was sent to the penalty box for high-sticking Jeremy Lauzon.
Normally, this type of late game penalty could and would spell doom for a team; especially against the Bruins. But the Islanders laughed in the face of such a statement when Pageau scored his second goal of the game — this one short-handed — thanks to a nifty play by Leo Komarov.
“Uncle Leo,” as he’s known by some and who had been placed on waivers earlier in the day, got the puck out of the Isles zone, carried it through the neutral zone and into Boston’s before passing it into the slot where Pageau took control and then J.G. shot the puck under Rask’s glove for the 4-2 Islanders lead.
And that’s where the score remained for the rest of the game as New York picked up its most impressive win of the season.
The Boys from Long Island got contributions from all four lines — especially from the middle-six, who were powered by Michael Dal Colle, Pageau, Eberle, Brock Nelson and Komarov — as well as from their special teams in as much of a statement win as possible for the 13th game of the season.
The Islanders have a six-game point streak…Mathew Barzal’s power-play goal extended his points streak to a career-high eight games…J.G. Pageau netted two-goals in his most impressive game as an Islander. Pageau was highly complimentary of his linemates after the game: “My linemates made it easy for me tonight, starting with Uncle Leo.”…Brock Nelson’s assist on Jordan Eberle’s goal was the 300th point of his career…The Isles went 1-for-1 on the power-play to improve to 8-for-35 on the season…The Isles recorded a season-high 42 shots on goal…The Isles win was the 1,300th in the career of G.M. Lou Lamoriello (3rd all-time). Trotz offered this assessment of Lamoriello’s milestone: “That’s a huge number.”
Monday February 15th Islanders at Sabres at KeyBank Center at 7pm(EST).
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