Any given Game Three in a best-four-of-seven playoff series is called the “Swing Game” and for good reason. A series can be 1-1, 2-0 or 0-2 (depending on your vantage point) heading into Game Three. So, a win in the all-important third game can either put you up 2-1 or 3-0 or it can prevent you from falling into an 0-3 hole. Again, it’s critical.
So, Thursday night at Nassau Coliseum, when the game began, the Islanders knew what was at stake in their 1-1 series with the Bruins. Unfortunately, that knowledge went to waste as the Boys from Long Island were defeated 2-1 in overtime by the Bruins on a surprise Brad Marchand shot early in the extra period and are now facing a 1-2 series deficit. The Isles’ offense was unable to solve Tuukka Rask until it was too late. Mathew Barzal tied the game late in the third period but overtime proved to be the Isles’ undoing as they could not find a way to get another puck past Rask, who was able to weather the Islanders’ storm until Marchand delivered the winner.
With all that being said, here’s how Game Three unfolded…
The Old Barn was rocking from the opening face-off and the crowd didn’t let up as they broke out taunts directed at Tuukka Rask early and often in the hopes of rattling the Bruins’ netminder. The jeers didn’t work though as Rask was sharp early.
On the other side, Semyon Varlamov again allowed the early first goal as Craig Smith, who missed Game Two with a lower-body injury, sniped one top-shelf over Varlamov’s glove at 5:52 of the first period for the 1-0 Bruins lead.
Moments after Smith’s goal, Anthony Beauvillier was sprung for a breakaway and attempted to beat Rask high, blocker side — a la Casey Cizikas in Game Two — but Rask made the save to keep the Islanders off the board.
The Islanders did their best to pressure Rask and the Bruins and eventually, Brad Marchand took the bait so to speak as he high-sticked Travis Zajac in the neutral zone to give the Isles their first power-play of the game. It was all for not though as the Nassaumen were unable to muster even a single shot on goal during the man advantage as the first period entered its final quarter.
The rest of the opening period passed without much fuss as the Isles played their game and dictated the pace, but they could not beat Rask, who tracked the puck well and had little to no traffic in front of him.
So, after one period of play, even though the Isles outshot the Bruins 7-5, they were outhit 13-11 and more importantly, outscored 1-0.
The second period began and both teams went heavy on defense as neither side was willing to give an inch of space to create offense. The hitting was intense and shots hardly existed. Shortly before the halfway point of the middle period Adam Pelech leveled David Pastrnak along the boards and then Charlie McAvoy retaliated by doing the same to J.G. Pageau. Eventually, Pastrnak took a slashing penalty for whacking Ryan Pulock.
But just like their first power-play, the Islanders were unable to beat Rask, although they did send several shots his way; including a beauty to Beauvillier at the doorstep that Rask just barely turned aside.
Not to be out done but moments later, Varlamov made an outstanding toe save on David Krejci to keep the Isles deficit at 1-0. And just because he can, Varlamov stoned Nick Ritchie a few minutes after that to one up himself.
By the time the second period ended, the Isles still trailed the Bruins 1-0 and it was all thanks to Varlamov that they were still within a goal of Boston. The second-half of the middle period was predominantly controlled by the Bruins and it was only because of Varlamov standing on his head that the game was still within reach for the Boys from Long Island as the second intermission began.
On to the third and the Bruins clearly had the edge in play during the opening minute. The Islanders were unable to break the Bruins’ momentum and then Andy Greene caught Charlie Coyle up high with a high-stick and the Isles went to their first penalty-kill of the evening.
The Nassaumen killed off the penalty to Greene but they did allow five shots on goal; all of which Varlamov turned aside. The Bruins used those shots to build momentum as they ran their shots advantage to 10-1 through the first eight-minutes of the third period.
Then, at the 11:04 mark of the third period, Josh Bailey tripped up Charlie McAvoy to send Boston to its second power-play of the game and at a very inopportune time for the Islanders. Luckily the Isles killed off this penalty too, but by the time they did, it was getting late early.
However, just as it seemed like time was against them, Mathew Barzal chose the perfect time to net his first goal of the playoffs as he picked off the puck from behind Boston’s net and tried to stuff it past Rask from behind. It took a couple of whacks, but the puck went in and all of a sudden it was a 1-1 game with 5:26 left in regulation.
Feeding off the energy created by Barzal’s goal, Beauvillier found himself on another breakaway moments later and again was stoned by Rask as time continued to come off the clock.
With just 2:15 left in regulation, Sean Kurally was called for cross-checking Kyle Palmieri from behind deep in the Isles’ zone and the Boys from Long Island went to their third power-play of the game. Unfortunately, for the third time in the game, the Isles’ power-play came up empty, so the game headed to overtime tied 1-1.
In overtime, the Islanders came out and dominated the first few minutes as Jordan Eberle and Mathew Barzal were stoned in quick succession by Rask. Then, 3:36 into overtime, Charlie McAvoy led the rush up the ice, dished the puck to Brad Marchand and Marchand fired an off-angle shot that surprised Varlamov. The shot beat Varlamov and the Islanders lost 2-1 in overtime to fall down 2-1 in the series.
The Isles went 0-for-3 on the power-play to go to 3-for-9 in the series…The Isles went 2-for-2 on the penalty-kill to go to 3-for-6 in the series…Mathew Barzal’s game-tying goal late in the third period was his first marker of the playoffs…For the second straight game these teams required overtime to crown a winner…The Islanders are now 16-8 in playoff overtimes at Nassau Coliseum.
Game 4 — Saturday June 5th Islanders vs Bruins at Nassau Coliseum at 7:15pm(EST).
TV: NBC, CBC, TVAS, SN
Radio: 88.7FM WRHU