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New York Islanders

Brocktober: Nelson’s Late third-period Goal Gives Islanders Game 3 Win

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Islanders celebrate Brock Nelson's game-winning goal in Game 3

Since Wednesday’s last-second loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning, New York Islanders head coach Barry Trotz has said he likes his team’s process and the Eastern Conference Final was close to changing direction.

At least for one game, the Trotz’s words were prophetic.

Brock Nelson’s goal with 3:25 left in the third period delivered the Islanders a 5-3 win over Tampa Bay in Game 3.

The Islanders, who blew a two-goal lead earlier in the third, are now down 2-1 in the series.

“I’ve been preaching about this group, this group is special with the resiliency,” Trotz said after Friday night’s game. “This is our fourth series, not our third. We’ve had to battle through double overtime losses, a lot of different things. Our first game getting into this bubble and losing the way we did.

“That says a lot for this group to be able to mentally park it and focus on the moment.”

Off a Tampa Bay defensive zone turnover forced by Nelson, Josh Bailey set the play up to Anthony Beauvillier who had a pass initially blocked before flung a blind pass to Nelson on the right for a shot that beat Andrei Vasilevskiy on the far side.

“It’s nice to get a bounce back win,” Nelson said. “A lot of guys are big for us, (Semyon Varlamov) was big. Obviously on that play Beau made a nice play. … It’s nice to get that win.”

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In a back-and-forth game with plenty of momentum swings, the Islanders finished 0-for-2 on the power play and failed to kill off their one penalty, but Varlamov was strong in net otherwise. He made 34 saves on 37 shots overall, including six high danger shots.

The teams traded four goals in the third period, but the Islanders got the final two to win their first Conference Final game in 27 years.

Leading the way with two points, Nelson’s effort could not be understated after what he encountered in Game 2, according to Trotz. It was Nelson who took the brunt of Alex Killorn’s boarding penalty that led to a one-game suspension for the Tampa Bay forward.

“Brock’s a little bit, I would say, under-the-radar to a lot of people,” Trotz said. “He’s grown so much over the years and he’s battling after that last game. It wasn’t easy. I wasn’t surprised, knowing Brock. He just so determined and said, ‘I’m going to bounce back.’ He’s resilient so I really liked his game.”

The Islanders got ahead a little more than halfway in the first period on Cal Clutterbuck’s second goal of the playoffs. After Jean-Gabriel Pageau missed a golden chance at the side of the net, Vasilevskiy fumbled with his right leg pad as a strap came loose.

As the puck remained in the zone, it bounced to Clutterbuck and he buried it high blocker side.

But similar to Game 2, Tampa Bay answered back quickly with a Mikhail Sergachev goal at 16:31. Yannni Gourde slid the puck low past Clutterbuck and the defenseman jumped into the play and roofed a backhander over Varlamov’s glove.

Shortly after a missed power play in the second, Mathew Barzal grabbed the puck along the nearside wall and fed Pageau in the slot. Adam Pelech skated into the left circle and grabbed a Pageau pass and ripped a shot by Vasilevskiy’s glove at 11:50.

With the goal, Pelech became the 17th different goal-scorer this postseason for the Islanders. Only the 1983 playoff team (18 different scorers) had more.

Exactly two minutes later, Beauvillier padded the lead on a play all set up by Nelson.

Nelson skated in the slot and dragged to his backhand but instead of shooting he circled behind the net. As he turned around he fired a pass in front of the crease to Beauvillier, who notched his ninth goal of the playoffs.

Two and a half minutes into the third, Tampa Bay answered on the power play. Jordan Eberle took a holding penalty in the offensive zone, which led to Ondrej Palat’s goal. Tyler Johnson knotted things up when he redirected a point shot with 7:56 left.

But it was Nelson who answered back with a goal and his second point of the night.

Vengeance Thy Name is Brock! Nelson Goal Proves Extra Satisfying in Game 3 Win | NYHN+

“Obviously it’s disappointing when you have a lead going into the third, chance to win a game and get back in the series and you give it up,” Nelson said. “But we stuck with it and stayed the course and kinda got right back on it.”

Pageau sealed the win with an empty-netter wit 36 seconds left. He was whacked on the play by Nikita Kucherov, leading to pushing and shoving after the whistle. On the ensuing draw, Matt Martin and Barclay Goodrow dropped the gloves.

“I think he’s a competitor and I think he was trying to get his stick on puck and he got the back of my leg, so it wasn’t too close,” Pageau said of Kucherov. “We’re going to battle everyone, everyone on our team tonight competed for a full 60 (minutes).”

Pageau picked up two points after filling centering in Casey Cizikas’s usual spot. After the game, Trotz said it’s still unclear if Cizikas will suit up for the next game.

Game 4 is scheduled for Sunday at 3 p.m as the New York Islanders look to even up the series.

“I didn’t like that we took that early penalty, give Tampa some momentum in the third and then they get it tied up on a tip. We sorta got our composure back and playing again,” Trotz said. “And that’s what I liked about our group.”

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New York Islanders

Islanders Players React After Eye Injury Ends Johnny Boychuk’s Career

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Johnny Boychuk

It wasn’t too loo long after Johnny Boychuk announced he was ending his 13-year NHL career that the reaction from current and former teammates started to pour in.

Johnny Boychuk spent the past six seasons as a member of the New York Islanders and the guys he took the ice with on a nightly basis praised the 36-year-old defenseman for the person and player he was. Part of the legacy Boychuk leaves behind from his time on Long Island was just how important a leader he was in the locker room.

All of that showed as players reacted to the news on social media.

“It’s been an honor to share the ice with you,” Anthony Beauvillier wrote on Instagram. “Proud to call you a friend. You’ll truly be missed. Much love JB”

Others took to Twitter to wish Boychuk well in his post-playing days and share their memories of playing alongside him.

Even former Islanders netminder Robin Lehner took a moment to honor his former teammate.

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New York Islanders

Arnold: Johnny Boychuk Helped Change Perception, Culture of New York Islanders

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New York Islanders Defenceman Johnny Boychuk (55) during warm-up before National Hockey League action between the New York Islanders and Ottawa Senators

Johnny Boychuk paused several times during his Zoom call with the reporters less than an hour after news broke that his 13 year NHL career had come to an end. The emotions of the moment getting the better of him for a second or two.

The often goofy Boychuk tried to remain his usual self, but the sadness of the situation was clearly visible as Boychuk discussed the previous few months and how an eye injury he suffered in March had led to the end of his playing days.

Johnny Boychuk looked back fondly at the past six years that he spent with the Islanders, where he appeared in 404 games and recorded 35 goals and 95 assists. He recalled how he spent a majority of that time partnered with Nick Leddy, who was acquired within hours of Boychuk back on Oct. 4, 2014.

And the 36-year-old defenseman discussed how his greatest memory of being an Islander was the people he came across.

“Meeting the people on the Island,” Boychuk started to say before pausing to regain his composure. “From the arena attendants to the security guards to the media. The players, the coaches, the staff. I mean the management, the owners. Meeting all these great people. There have been so many good memories. … It’s tough to process everything at one time.”

What became abundantly clear in the hours after Boychuk announced the end of his career was the place he holds in Islanders fans’ hearts.

Yes, Johnny Boychuk won a Stanley Cup with the Boston Bruins and spent six years in Beantown, but some of his most significant contributions came during his time on Long Island. And the biggest was the faith he showed when re-signing with the Islanders in 2015.

The signing went well beyond just making the Islanders a better team, it helped start to chip away at the perception that Long Island wasn’t a place top-tier talent wanted to stay. What Boychuk, and subsequently Leddy, gave the Islanders was a sense of credibility back that they had been lacking for some time.

“I’d seen it before where guys would come to the Island and they would leave within a year or two,” Boychuk said on Wednesday. “When I got traded to the Island we had a good group of young players, but now they’re veteran players. They’ve got experience and I think a lot of guys see potential in the Islanders. It’s a good place to play, to be with your family and to have a bond together as a team. It will continue to just get better and better.

“I think the fans realized it. I didn’t realize it at the time when I first got traded, but after being there a year I realized what it was to be an Islander and you take pride in it.”

Boychuk made an indelible mark on the Islanders organization through leadership on and off the ice. He won over fans through his gritty style of play and give it all attitude. Boychuk left it all on the ice with every shift.

He nearly brought the roof down in 2015 during a desperation clear in the closing seconds of the second period of Game 3 of the Islanders First Round series against Washington. And there were plenty more moments like that throughout his time on Long Island.

Boychuk may have never won a Stanley Cup with the Islanders, but he helped change the culture and perception of an organization that needed it. While he may not be retiring on the terms he would have liked, Boychuk can take some solace in knowing the franchise is in a much better place now than it was when he arrived.

“I think everybody has seen the transformation of how the team did that to themselves,” Boychuk said. “With Lou (Lamoriello) and Barry (Trotz) coming in halfway through my time on the Island it’s just been getting better and better as well. It will continue to get better and better because we play together and we play for each other, and we always will.”

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Johnny Boychuk’s Career Ends Due to Eye Injury

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Johnny Boychuk

The NHL career of Johnny Boychuk came to an end on Wednesday after 13 seasons.

The New York Islanders announced that Boychuk’s time in the NHL had come to an end due to an eye injury he suffered during the regular season. Boychuk was clipped by the skate of the Montreal Canadiens’ Artturi Lehkonen on March 3 just above his eyelid.

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The gruesome injury required 90 stitches to repair the cut, but it did not preclude Johnny Boychuk from playing briefly during the postseason this year. While Boychuk did appear in three games during the playoffs over the summer, he did begin to feel the injury start to become an issue again.

“I kind of felt it in the bubble a little bit, but when I got out I started to work out and I really realized there was something wrong,” Boychuk said during a Zoom call Wednesday afternoon. “I went and got it checked out and after I got it checked out I let Lou know what was going on. It’s been two months of doctors and MRIs and X-Rays. It’s been a while.”

After months of tests and exams, the results Boychuk got back were eye-opening, he said during the call. Doctors told the veteran defenseman that his prereferral vision was “pretty bad” and that there was some optic nerve damage.

Doctors even went as far as to tell Boychuk that some of the damage to his eye was irreversible. The news was serious enough that it took any decision Boychuk was going to have right out of his hands.

“When somebody tells you you’re not going to play again or you shouldn’t or else you’re going to get seriously hurt it’s been really tough,” he said. “I don’t even think it was a decision. When you play with it and realize there’s something wrong and then you go and get tests. It wasn’t really a decision, it was a life choice.

“If I was to go play again and not being able to see somebody coming and getting hit, I could be a lot worse than what I was.”

While Boychuk’s career is coming to an end, the 36-year-old wasn’t quite sure if he was officially retiring or if he was being placed on LTIR. Boychuk had two years remaining on his contract and the Islanders would be able to use his $6 million cap hit if they put him on LTIR.

The Islanders have a mere $3.9 million in cap space with restricted free agent Mathew Barzal still unsigned.

“The injury is causing me to stop playing, so I don’t know if it’s retiring or LTIR,” Boychuk said. “I just know that it’s going to cause me to not play because it’s basically not safe for me if I can’t see things coming. For the future, I have no idea what to do because this has just been two months of going to doctors and I’m trying to think about what I can do after, but I’m not too sure yet.

“I want to be on the Island obviously. We built a house there, so there was no plans on leaving, but I just don’t know.”

Johnny Boychuk has spent the last six seasons with the Islanders, appearing in 404 games and recording 131 points (35 goals, 96 assists). He was acquired by the Islanders on Oct. 4, 2014, from the Boston Bruins in exchange for a pair of second-round picks.

Boychuk signed a seven-year contract extension later that season.

Prior to his trade to New York, Johnny Boychuk spent six years with Boston where he appeared in 317 games and won a Stanley Cup in 2011. In addition, Boychuk spent one season with the Colorado Avalanche.

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