Hockey

NY ISLANDERS: Season of Highlights gets Another as Islanders Down Bruins 4-3 in Overtime to Stay Perfect Against Boston By Matt Blittner, The New York Extra/TheNYExtra.com

Bartender…keep the tab open please.” 

Sure…will you have your usual, The Nassau Coliseum? Or do you want something different, like The TD Garden?

Doesn’t matter…just keep ‘em coming.

Okay.

Thursday night at TD Garden in Boston, the Islanders continued their winning ways against the Bruins by making a little bit of franchise history. For the first time in their 48-seasons, the Islanders have beaten Boston five times in a single season. And Thursday night, the Isles pulled off this historic win in comeback fashion as they trailed 2-0 after 20 minutes but managed to right the ship in their eventual 4-3 overtime victory thanks to another clutch play on the part of Anthony Beauvillier.

Reflecting back on what his team had accomplished in the game, Barry Trotz told the media: “I liked our resiliency. We stayed in the fight…All we care about is collecting points.”

That’s right, the 2020-21 Islanders have done something their 1978-79 (116 points) predecessors, nor their 1981-82 (118 points) ever managed to do. The Dynasty Isles didn’t do it and no Isles team has ever done it — until now.

Let that sink in for a minute.

The beginning of the game felt like a heavyweight boxing match with both fighters feeling each other out before going on the attack. There were no shots on goal — by either team — through the first 6:38 of the game before Boston registered a harmless shot against Semyon Varlamov to get things going.

At 11:42 of the first period, a seemingly benign shot from the left wall by Karson Kuhlman traveled through a screen and past Varlamov for the 1-0 Bruins lead. Varlamov never saw the puck as Nick Leddy and Charlie Coyle were tied up jockeying for position and prevented the Isles’ netminder from picking up the puck. 

Just shy of four-minutes later, Casey Cizikas was called for tripping Connor Clifton inside Boston’s zone and for the first power-play of the game; one the Bruins happily accepted. 

It looked like the Isles would successfully kill of the Cizikas penalty but with two-seconds left on the Bruins’ man-advantage, Steven Kampfer, from the top of the left face-off circle, blasted a one-timer off a Charlie McAvoy feed and upped the Bruins’ lead to 2-0.

The Nassaumen no doubt felt the game wasn’t going their way — it wasn’t — but they didn’t give up as they hit the first intermission down 2-0 and with 14-seconds of penalty-kill time left courtesy of a Michael Dal Colle tripping penalty against McAvoy towards the end of the opening period.

Towards the end of the intermission, the Bruins announced goalie Tuukka Rask was leaving the game with an injury and Jaroslav Halak was coming on in relief.

However, after killing off those remaining 14-seconds to start the second period, the Isles didn’t manage to generate much offense against Boston before heading back to the penalty-kill once more as Scott Mayfield was assessed a double-minor for high-sticking Patrice Bergeron at the 3:12 mark of the middle period. There was no doubt a penalty needed to be called, but it was questionable it needed to be a double-minor as Bergeron was visibly trying to show the referees his gums while pleading he was bleeding. (The cameras didn’t pick up any blood but the referees gave him the benefit of the doubt.)

It wasn’t easy for the Islanders, but they managed to survive the Bruins’ attack and send the Boston Boys back to the bench empty-handed.

Ryan Pulock would later talk about what it meant to kill off the double-minor: “I think it’s important. Obviously, it’s a big part of the game, getting that kill…They just move the puck well, have a lot of skill.”

That key penalty-kill allowed the Islanders to build momentum for themselves and just nine-seconds after Mayfield exited the box, J.G. Pageau scored his fifth goal of the season against Boston to cut the Boys from Long Island’s deficit to 2-1.

Leo Komarov and Pageau led the charge up the ice as Mayfield was fleeing the box and turned a two-on-two into a three-on-two odd man rush. Komarov carried the puck in deep along the left boards before passing it out to Mayfield, who was streaking towards the Bruins’ net. The puck ping-ponged off Mayfield’s skates and out to Pageau, who went top-shelf over Jaroslav Halak’s blocker to get the Islanders on the board.

That was the only goal scored in the middle period and it was a much better period for the Islanders, but after 20-minutes of play, the score still read 2-1 Bruins.

Into the third period the teams went and the Islanders wasted little time in searching for the game-tying goal. That came 4:33 into the period when Josh Bailey smartly backed up his defensemen, who had led the rush into Boston’s zone. The puck went down to Brock Nelson at the goal-line and Nelson found Bailey streaking through the right face-off circle towards the net. In stride, Bailey received the pass and fired a wrist-shot over Halak’s blocker for the game-tying goal: 2-2.

The teams clamped down from there, trying to limit each other’s chances and defense carried the period until there was under five-minutes to go in regulation.

Then, just as the clock dropped below four-minutes, Craig Smith got in behind Scott Mayfield, all alone against Varlamov and tried to go backhand on the Nassaumen’s goaltender. Varlamov shutdown those thoughts and stuffed the Bruins centerman with a potential game-saving save.

Not even a minute later, Oliver Wahlstrom continued his recent scorching hot success and netted the go-ahead goal for the Islanders with just 2:56 to go in the game: 3-2 Isles.

The Boys from Long Island got the puck in deep against the Bruins and went to work in search of their first lead of the night. Anthony Beauvillier got the puck over to Pageau, who was behind Boston’s net. Pageau wanted to pass it out to Wahlstrom, however, the puck deflected slightly off Halak’s pads before getting over to the Isles rookie, who backhanded the puck off Halak’s glove-side shoulder and into the Bruins’ net for what looked like it could be the game-winning goal.

Josh Bailey later offered his thoughts on the improvement of Wahlstrom’s play: “He continues to grow. He’s playing with a lot of confidence. He’s earned that confidence…You can’t teach that shot.”  

However, 54-seconds after Wahlstrom elated the Isles, Anders Bjork brought the Bruins back from the brink to tie the game at 3. Bjork went flying down the slot and shot the puck over Varlamov’s left pad off a feed from Charlie Coyle to take away the Islanders’ aspirations of winning in regulation.

To overtime the teams went, with the Isles lugging a 1-3 record in games this season that finished in overtime. Their lone win was Monday night against the Flyers on a goal by Anthony Beauvillier. Could they turn the trick twice?

Barry Trotz put Pageau, Beauvillier and Nick Leddy on the ice to start the extra period and after a brief moment to regroup back in the Isles’ zone, Leddy wasted no time in flying down the left wing, past Coyle and fired a blast at Halak. Halak couldn’t handle the shot and the puck dropped to the crease waiting for somebody to finish the job.

That “somebody” turned out to be Beauvillier, who came swooping in, eyes lit up like a Charistmas tree and banged home the loose puck for his second consecutive overtime game-winning goal. Beauvillier’s overtime magic gave the Islanders the 4-3 win and their fifth victory against the Bruins this season.

As you can probably imagine, Beauvillier likes being out on the ice when the chips are down: “It’s a thrill to be out there in overtime…I just want to do my job out there.”

After the game, Head Coach Barry Trotz had this to say about Beauvillier’s play of late: “When you have a positive effect, you feel good about your play…Scoring is a bonus when your team wins.”

GAME NOTES:

The Isles went 0-for-1 on the power-play to bring their season tally to 17-for-82…This was the Isles fifth win in five-games against the Bruins this season; a franchise-best as the Boys from Long Island had never beaten the Bruins five-times in the same season…Pageau’s second period goal was the 100th of his career and fifth in five games against the Bruins this season…Anthony Beauvillier’s game-winning goal in overtime was his second straight overtime game-winning goal and it extends his goal-scoring streak to three games.

NEXT GAME:

Saturday March 27th Islanders at Penguins at PPG Paints Arena at 7pm(EST).

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