What’s old is new again as the NHL and ESPN have reportedly come to a seven-year agreement for part of The League’s U.S. Media Rights (as was first reported by Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston). ESPN previously held The League’s rights prior to the NHL signing an exclusive deal with NBC in April 2011. The deal with NBC paid the NHL $200 million per season for 10-years and expires at the end of the 2020-21 season. And as part of their return to the hockey world, ESPN will have the rights to four of the seven Stanley Cup Finals played during the length of this new deal and it will not contain an exclusivity clause, which is a key difference this time for the NHL as The League wants to have multiple media rights partners as it attempts to grow the game.
How does this affect the Islanders? Well, beyond the bigger national platform, there’s very likely to be more money distributed to the teams as this new deal is expected to exceed the $2 Billion total that NBC paid. And that’s good news for the Isles as it will likely mean an increase in the salary cap, which will help the team keep a number of its key players. As for their game Tuesday night against the Bruins at Nassau Coliseum, well, the Boys from Long Island pulled out a 2-1 shootout victory over Boston for their fourth win in as many games against the visitors this season.
Oh and of note, this was the last game at Nassau Coliseum to be played in the fan-less era as Islanders fans will once again populate the building starting (in restricted numbers of course) with their game this coming Thursday, March 11th, against the Devils; which will be played in front of 1,000 Northwell Health staff members. (Paying fans will be allowed starting on March 18th).
Ryan Pulock for one seemed happy about this development: “I’m sure they’ll be there ready to bring the noise. We’ll look forward to that.”
Some inspired play right out of the gate by the Islanders was a welcome sight as the game got underway. The Isles did what they do best: play an understated style of hockey, some would say “boring,” and got a couple of early chances to take the lead — although none panned out.
The Nassaumen’s best chance was 15-seconds into the game as Matt Martin deflected the puck on goal but it was turned aside by one-time Isles’ netminder, Jaroslav Halak.
Anders Lee and Jordan Eberle went up ice on an odd-man rush a couple minutes later and Eberle, off Lee’s feed, fired the puck off the outside of the near post on what would have been a certain goal with Halak slow to get over. Eberle wanted that one back, but for several minutes it still seemed the Isles would have more chances to make up for the near-miss.
That is, until the midway point of the period when Boston found its legs and the momentum shifted to the Bruins.
To compound their issues, the Nassaumen became uncharacteristically sloppy with the puck, routinely turning it over to give the Bruins a multitude of scoring chances. Semyon Varlamov managed to bail out his teammates initially, until a stroke of bad luck returned to haunt the Isles’ netminder.
Just like a few games ago against Pittsburgh when Varlamov fell down on the penalty-kill, which allowed Sidney Crosby to score, the Islanders once again found themselves on the penalty-kill, this time courtesy of Anders Lee being sent to the box for tripping Charlie Coyle late in the first period.
With just 28-seconds to go in the first period, David Pastrnak fired a one-timer towards Varlamov as the netminder fell down and could not get himself set in time to make the save. 1-0 Boston. It was a bad break for the Islanders for sure, but at least it was one they could dig themselves out of.
To the second period the teams went and the sloppiness continued, however, that wasn’t unique to just the Islanders as Boston also suffered some bouts of coughing up the puck.
Early in the period (2:51 to be precise), Charlie Coyle was sent to the box for tripping Mathew Barzal but the ensuing Islanders power-play was more beneficial to the Bruins than it was to the home team as Boston generated several short-handed odd-man rushes to build momentum for themselves.
Varlamov stood tall and several Isles defenders got back in time to prevent the Bruins from cashing in, but the ice was clearly tilted in favor of the visitors. Everything changed though when Brad Marchand went all schoolyard bully on Oliver Wahlstrom.
Wahlstrom, who lost his edge and inadvertently slammed a prone Connor Clifton into the boards, was immediately tackled from behind by Marchand, who took exception to the rookie’s hit on Clifton. Marchand and Wahlstrom were both sent to the box, with Marchand receiving an extra two-minutes to give the Islanders their second power-play of the period.
With under 20-seconds to go in the power-play and under four-minutes to play in the second period, Barzal dangled and passed the puck down low to J.G. Pageau, who was stationed to the left of Halak’s net. Pageau quickly dished the puck to Brock Nelson in the low slot, who one-timed it over Halak’s glove for the game-tying power-play goal. 1-1.
By no means was it a good period for the Boys from Long Island, but nobody’s going to complain about heading to the third period tied. Of course, it would have been very different if Varlamov hadn’t made the spectacular save he did on David Krejci’s shot midway through the period; prior to the Wahlstrom-Marchand incident.
Thankfully, Varlamov made the save, Nelson scored the goal and it was off to the third period tied 1-1.
According to Varlamov, it was a rather lucky save: “That was a big save in the right moment. A key save, I would say… The net was wide-open so the guy was shooting on an empty net. I had a chance to stop it with my stick and it was kind of a lucky play.”
Head Coach Barry Trotz later added: “It gave our bench a real boost. We were fortunate, we had lots of desperation, but we got a big save… That was a huge turning point in the game.”
A tight-checking third period ensued before things opened up as the clock began to tick towards a possible overtime period. Both teams had their chances, with the Isles outshooting Boston 9-4 in the third, but overtime was deemed necessary when regulation time ran out and the score remained 1-1.
Overtime got off to a bit of a slow and perhaps sloppy start before kicking into a higher gear past the midway point of the five-minute extra time. Barzal and Ryan Pulock each ended up logging a shift of two or more minutes during the overtime period, however Varlamov stopped all five of the Bruins’ shots to send the game to a shootout.
As Pulock later explained: “Got stuck out there a little bit. It’s tough to change when you have that long change, especially as the D-man. We were able to lock it down and get out of it.”
The Isles may have gotten past the overtime period intact but Trotz was none too pleased with their performance in the 3-on-3 extra time: “I think we could spread out a little more. I think we can try to isolate and get some better support from our group. We end up on the perimeter too much. That’s an area we can be a lot better.”
The glorified skills competition began with Jordan Eberle and David Pastrnak each scoring, before Barzal and Coyle were each stopped on their respective attempts. To the third and final round the shootout went and Anthony Beauvillier went top-shelf on Halak before Varlamov sealed the win at the other end with a save on Marchand to extend the Islanders’ overall winning streak to six-straight games.
After the game, Pageau quipped: “They (Eberle and Beauvillier) did some stuff I could never do so it was fun to watch.”
Pageau later added: “They’re (the Bruins) a hard team to play against. They play a good defensive game. When we get our chances, we really have to capitalize on them. Overall, we did some really great things and stuck with it through the end.”
It wasn’t a pretty game by any means for the Boys from Long Island, but they earned the hard-fought two-points and will now turn their attention to the Devils on Thursday. And meanwhile, the NHL will turn its attention to formally announcing all the details of its shiny new deal with ESPN.
The Isles went 1-for-2 on the power-play to bring their season tally to 15-for-61…The Isles remain the only team in the NHL to not suffer a regulation loss to home (11-0-2 on the season at Nassau Coliseum)…The Islanders have won six-straight overall and are riding a nine-game points streak…Head Coach Barry Trotz was behind the bench for the 1,700th regular season game of his NHL career. That is the third highest total of all-time for Head Coaches. Only Scotty Bowman and Joel Quenneville have coached more…Brock Nelson’s second period power-play goal extended his goal-scoring streak to three-games, his points-streak to four-games and was his sixth power-play goal of the season…J.G. Pageau, who received an assist on Nelson’s marker, extended his own assist-streak to three-games…The Isles have secured four wins in four games against the Bruins this season.
Thursday March 11th Islanders vs. Devils at Nassau Coliseum at 7pm(EST).