Hockey

NY ISLANDERS: Isles Ruin Former-Goalie Jaroslav Halak’s “Homecoming” with Five-Goal Third Period in 7-2 Victory Over Bruins Thursday Night at Nassau Coliseum By Matt Blittner, The New York Extra/TheNYExtra.com

The popular ESPN NY Radio show, “The Michael Kay Show” frequently signs off by telling its fans, “Life is a series of hellos and good-byes” and that sentiment is applicable to the Islanders and Bruins’ goaltender Jaroslav Halak.

From the 2014-15 season through the 2017-18 campaign, Jaroslav Halak manned the pipes for the NY Islanders. And on Thursday night, inside Nassau Coliseum, the Islanders faced off against Halak for the first time in seven-years in a 7-2 victory for the Islanders that was fueled by a five-goal third period. (It was the Isles first five-goal third period since February 9, 2018 vs the Red Wings.)

For Halak, it was the first time he has seen the Islanders since leaving after the 2017-18 season. And it was the first time he has played against the Isles since January 25, 2014, when he backstopped the St. Louis Blues to a 4-3 shootout victory over the Boys from Long Island. Halak entered Thursday’s game with a 7-1-1 record in his career against the Nassaumen with two shutouts and having never allowed more than three goals in a game to Long Island’s favorite team. That last stat was no longer true after Thursday night.

So, how did we get to this final result?

During much of Halak’s tenure in New York, the Isles were not the most defensively sound team. It wasn’t until Barry Trotz took over — after Halak had departed — that the Islanders became a strong, structured, defensive team. So, when Halak looked out on the ice after the opening face-off, it must have surprised him to see his former team play such a wide open game — that certainly wasn’t in the scouting report.

Just 1:02 into the game, the Nassaumen turned the puck over in the neutral zone and Boston charged into the Isles’ zone with bad intentions. 

Charlie Coyle got the puck over to Jakub Zboril, who streaked through the right face-off circle before backhanding a pass backdoor to Nick Ritchie, who easily tapped the puck past Semyon Varlamov’s pad for the early 1-0 Bruins lead.

As Butch Goring explained on the Isles’ MSG Network broadcast, you don’t want to see the team give up such an easy tap-in type goal. You need to make the opposition earn it.

Well, Boston was kind enough to give the lead up fairly quick as 2:14 later, Casey Cizikas fired a shot towards the goal from the point along the far boards and after it was deflected by Matt Martin, Adam Pelech swooped in from the left side and buried the loose puck for his first goal of the year to tie the game at 3:16 of the first period. (Can we get a “Hell Yeah?”)

The next several minutes saw the Bruins and Islanders trade scoring chance after scoring chance in an atypical, wide open affair. 

Neither Halak nor Varlamov gave in until…

With 12:39 gone in the first period Mathew Barzal reminded the Bruins for the umpteenth time that they made a mistake in passing on him three straight times during the first-round of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft.

For the fourth time in his career, Barzal scored a goal against the Bruins and this one was a thing of beauty (unless you’re a Bruins fan).

Varlamov cleared the puck from behind his own net with a pass to Nick Leddy, who sent a nifty pass to Barzal at the Isles own blue line. Barzal accelerated through the neutral zone and then kicked it into another gear — reaching 21mph while skating — to blow past Connor Clifton before going top-shelf on Halak for the 2-1 Islanders lead.

The teams continued to trade chances, with Boston actually outshooting the Isles through the end of the first period and into the second. And there was bad news at the start of the middle period for New York in regards to Cal Clutterbuck, who didn’t look quite right at the end of the first. He came out for a twirl during warmups for the second period and then went back to the dressing room and did not return. (He was officially ruled out for the rest of the game shortly before the third period began.) Barry Trtz said after the game that he, “(was) not too concerned.”

Then Boston, who was outplaying the Nassaumen during the middle period, evened things up on a lucky break (unlucky for the Islanders).

With 11:36 gone in the second Craig Smith came flying down the near boards and attempted to pass the puck to Jack Studnicka, who was streaking down the slot. But Smith’s pass was broken up by Matt Martin’s stick, which inadvertently sent the puck wobbling into the air and past Varlamov for the game-tying goal.

It wasn’t a good feeling for Martin and the Islanders, however, they would soon be jumping for joy.

The third period opened with the score tied at two and with the official news that Clutterbuck would not return, however, Anthony Beauvillier put a smile on his teammates faces 5:41 into the period when he channeled a sly neighborhood pickpocket and stole the puck from Trent Frederic in front of Halak before backhanding the puck past the Bruins’ netminder for the 3-2 Islanders lead. Oh and did I mention, it was Beauvillier’s first goal of the year, so it was good for him to get that monkey off his back.

A one-goal lead with 14:19 to go in the third period certainly didn’t have the Isles feeling comfortable, so they went out and added to their lead.

5:04 after Beauvillier’s goal the floodgates opened for the Boys from Long Island and they enjoyed every last bit of it.

First came Jordan Eberle’s beautiful goal when he and Barzal went two-on-one up the ice. Barzal passed the biscuit to Eberle, who faked passing it back, waited out Halak and then went top-shelf for the 4-2 Isles lead; which certainly had Halak in a tizzy as Boston’s netminder smashed his stick into the goalpost, the shards of which, scattered behind the net.

A 4-2 lead with 9:15 to go would probably have been enough for a victory, but the Nassaumen weren’t ready to sit back and run out the clock.

1:39 after Eberle’s goal, with the Isles on the penalty-kill thanks to a delay of game penalty by Casey Cizikas, J.G. Pageau once again burned the Bruins as he flew up the ice on a short-handed breakaway before going high, glove-side on Halak for the shorty and the 5-2 New York lead.

And 2:20 after Pageau scored, the Isles cycled the puck around Boston’s zone. Nick Leddy faked a shot from the point before passing to Noah Dobson in the right face-off circle. Dobson fired the puck on net and while Halak made the initial save, Anders Lee was in his office and exerted his will against Boston’s Urho Vaakanainen to easily tap the loose puck into the Bruins’ net for the Touchdown. 6-2 Isles.

6-2 should have been more than enough but rookie Oliver Wahlstrom wanted in on the goal-scoring party. So, 1:49 after Lee’s goal, Ryan Pulock fired a shot that Halak saved but couldn’t control the rebound on and Wahlstrom, who has really been working hard each and every game, came swooping in down the slot and sniped the loose puck past Halak for the extra point. 7-2 Islanders.

That was all for the scoring as the Boys from Long Island decided a five-goal third period was more than enough. However, Boston wasn’t thrilled — why would they be? — and with 2:07 to go in the game, Trent Federic took out his frustrations on Anders Lee with a crosscheck. Matt Martin stood up for his Captain and went after Federic to up the intensity a notch and send a warning for the next time these teams meet.

In regards to his team’s offensive fireworks, Head Coach Barry Trotz later quipped: “I did, (think we’d win), but not to the extent of the score.”

All in all, a statement win for the Islanders, who have now beaten Boston all three times they’ve played each other this season.

After the game, Mathew Barzal summed up his team’s third period explosion like this: “Tie game going into the third against arguably the best team in the league is a good test for us… I thought we really rose to the forefront tonight.”

Captain Anders Lee added: “We’re chasing Boston here and this division is extremely tight. Every game is extremely important. We still have work to do but any time you can close the gap a bit… it’s a good evening.”

GAME NOTES:

Adam Pelech’s game-tying goal at 3:16 of the first period was his first of the season…Casey Cizikas received a secondary assist on Pelech’s goal, giving him 100 career NHL assists…Semyon Varlamov was credited with an assist on Mathew Barzal’s first period goal; his first helper as a member of the Islanders. Varlamov later said: “That was my first point of the season, I was pretty excited about it. They announced my name…Kind of lucky, ya know?”…Anthony Beauvillier’s goal was his first of the season. Barzal later commented: “Love seeing him smile and he loves scoring so whenever he gets one. That’s definitely a big boost for the bench.”…J.G. Pageau’s short-handed goal was his fourth in three games against the Bruins this season. Barzal also commented on Pageau’s performance by saying: “He’s just a utility knife. There’s really nothing he can’t do.”…Oliver Wahlstrom’s goal was the fifth of the third period for the Islanders and his second career goal…The Isles went 0-for-2 on the power-play to fall to 11-for-47 on the season.

NEXT GAME:

Saturday February 27th Islanders vs. Penguins at Nassau Coliseum at 7pm(EST).

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