So much for the future being now. After a red-hot stretch from Ilya Sorokin that saw the rookie netminder take over the starting job in the Isles’ series victory over the Penguins, Head Coach Barry Trotz proved that was simply temporary. Following a Game One loss to Boston in which Ilya Sorokin was not at his best (nor were his teammates for that matter), Trotz went back to Semyon Varlamov for Game Two.
Monday night in Game Two at TD Garden in Boston the Islanders responded to Trotz’s goalie change by tying the series against the Bruins with a 4-3 overtime victory that saw Casey Cizikas (overtime winner), Varlamov (39-saves), Mathew Barzal, Leo Komarov, Kyle Palmieri, J.G. Pageau and Josh Bailey provide the spark they were missing in Game One.
The last time we saw Semyon Varlamov in action was Game Three of the Islanders/Penguins series. In that game Varlamov took the loss while allowing five-goals on 27-shots for an .815 SV%. In addition, Varlamov continued to allow the early first goal and routinely gave back goals shortly after each of the Isles’ own scores.
It was after that the Islanders went to Ilya Sorokin and the rookie came up aces by winning three-straight games to propel his team past Pittsburgh and into the Second-Round against Boston. But in Game One versus the Bruins, Sorokin allowed four-goals on 39-shots (.897 SV%) and he will now await another opportunity to prove himself as he once again takes a backseat to Varlamov.
So, in Game Two, the Islanders came out and wouldn’t you know it, they allowed an early goal again. Several neutral zone turnovers by the Islanders in the opening minute set the tone early and at the 2:38 mark of the first period one of those turnovers led to Charlie Coyle using a power move to get around Nick Leddy and then finished by zooming past a sprawling Varlamov for the 1-0 Boston lead.
The Isles took a couple minutes to generate some offense and just as it seemed like they were stringing something together, Jordan Eberle took an offensive zone tripping penalty to send the Nassaumen to the penalty-kill.
On the ensuing Islanders penalty-kill the team did not allow Boston a single shot on goal and successfully killed off the penalty to Eberle.
Unfortunately for the Boys from Long Island, they were unable to parlay that into a goal of their own as Tuukka Rask stood tall on the occasions the Isles directed the puck his way. This was especially true during the final few minutes of the opening period as the Nassaumen applied pressure to the Bruins; particularly whenever Mathew Barzal’s line was on the ice.
On the other side, Varlamov settled down somewhat after giving up the Coyle goal. He faced 15 total shots in the period and only allowed one goal. However, his rebounds often led to more chances for the Bruins and that was something to watch out for as the game entered the first intermission.
The second period began and neither team managed a goal in the opening couple minutes; which was a positive development for the Islanders given how the first period started. Then, with 5:09 gone by, the Bruins went on the attack but David Pastrnak launched himself over Semyon Varlamov and was called for goalie interference.
On the Isles’ first power-play of the game, Josh Bailey sent the puck towards the net, it ping-ponged off of Jeremy Lauzon and darted behind Rask for the game-tying goal at the 6:52 mark of the second period.
That goal gave the Isles the momentum they needed and the team started to play much better from that point onward. Just a few short minutes later, at the 11:00 mark of the middle period, a J.G. Pageau backhander through the crease was stopped by Rask and then poked in by Kyle Palmieri for the 2-1 Islanders lead.
1:09 after Palmieri’s goal, Matt Martin and Nick Ritchie were both sent to the box for roughing penalties which resulted in the teams skating four-aside. It was during the four-on-four that the game unsurprisingly opened up as the Bruins and Islanders traded multiple chances.
Mathew Barzal missed on a backhand attempt at the end of his breakaway and Varlamov then stood tall at the other end against chances from David Krejci, Pastrnak and company. Varlamov even had to make a couple saves without his stick as chaos broke out in the Isles’ zone.
A technical miscue inside the arena led to the four-on-four lasting longer than it should have and tempers flared as Boston’s skaters targeted Jordan Eberle on a pair of hits. Brandon Carlo was eventually sent to the penalty box for cross-checking Leo Komarov and on the power-play, Barzal passed the puck to Anthony Beauvillier, who sent it across to J.G. Pageau at the doorstep. Pageau knocked home the puck and the Isles led 3-1 with 2:39 left in the middle period.
The second period came to an end moments later but not without some more extracurriculars as things began to boil over both on the ice and in the stands.
Ritchie and Adam Pelech were both assessed roughing penalties for their roles in the after the horn fracas. So, the third began with the teams skating four-aside once again and both sides again exchanged multiple chances as desperation set in and the tone of play continued to get nastier.
The pace of the game continued to go back and forth once five-on-five was restored. The key to the Islanders’ maintaining the lead through everything was the resurgent play of Varlamov who stood tall during Boston’s siege, making several saves, including a pair of beauties on Pastrnak. Meanwhile, Rask kept Boston within shouting distance by stoning Beauvillier and Martin with a pair of key saves as well.
Then, with 10:34 gone in the third period, after some sustained pressure by The Perfection Line, Patrice Bergeron made the Islanders sweat by bringing the Bruins within 3-2. The pressure was on for both teams, but especially the Islanders who could ill afford to fall down 0-2 in the series.
However, with 5:21 left in the third period, the Isles made things harder for themselves as they were called for too many men on the ice, which led to a critical penalty-kill for the Boys from Long Island while clinging to a one-goal lead.
Unfortunately, the Isles penalty-kill sprang a leak and Brad Marchand scored the game-tying goal just 27-seconds into the power-play. So, with 4:54 left in regulation it was now a 3-3 game.
44-seconds after Marchand’s goal, Mike Reilly was called for playing the puck with a broken stick to gift the Islanders with a power-play. Sadly, the Nassaumen were unable to find the right shooting lane and could not beat Rask on the man-advantage, so the game remained tied at 3-3.
Since the game was tied 3-3 at the end of regulation you know what that meant; the teams went to sudden-death overtime.
In overtime the teams traded stretches of sustained pressure as Varlamov and Rask each withstood the assault of the offense thrown their way. The Islanders had the edge in play through the first 10:20 of overtime, although the official NHL stats page showed both teams as having generated five scoring chances apiece.
Finally, after plenty of back and forth action, with 5:12 remaining in the first overtime period, Casey Cizikas picked off a Lauzon pass that bounced off Coyle’s skate at the Isles’ blue line and broke in alone on Rask. Cizikas fired high over Rask’s right shoulder for the game-winner and the Islanders evened the series at one-game apiece thanks to their 4-3 overtime win.
WHAT ISLANDERS FAN ARE SAYING:
Michael O’Brien: “I was a little surprised he (Varlamov) got the start but at this point, as an islanders fan, I have to trust (Barry) Trotz. After that first goal I gulped, but then he was a brick wall. He was awesome in overtime.”
The Isles went 2-for-3 on the power-play to go to 3-for-6 in the series and 6-for-22 in playoffs…The Isles and 1-for-2 on the penalty-kill to go to 1-for-4 in the series…Anthony Beauvillier’s power-play assist on J.G. Pageau’s power-play goal extended his points streak to six-games…Kyle Palmieri’s second period goal was his fourth of the playoffs, a new playoff career-high (thanks Eric Hornick)…The Isles two power-play goals in this game is the second time this post-season they’ve accomplished that feat. They’d only done that twice in the last 18-years (2016 and 2020). Again thanks to Eric Hornick for the stats…Casey Cizikas scored the overtime game-winning goal.
Game 3 — Thursday June 3rd Islanders vs Bruins at Nassau Coliseum at 7:30pm(EST).
TV: NBCSN, CBC, TVAS
Radio: 88.7FM WRHU