Casey Cizikas wouldn’t have been the first person that came to mind when trying to pick a game-winner, but the fourth-liner came up big when the New York Islanders needed him the most.
Cizikas scored the game-winning goal on Monday on the breakaway to clinch Game 2 for the Islanders in overtime, 4-3 and send their series with the Boston Bruins back to Long Island even at 1-1. The OT winner was Cizikas’ first postseason goal since April 21, 2015, against a Barry Trotz-led Washington Capitals team.
Jeremy Lauzon had a pass attempt at the blue line hit off the skate of another Boston teammate and Cizikas picked up the loose puck for a breakaway. Cizikas put the puck past Tuukka Rask at the 14:48 mark of overtime for the win.
Casey Cizikas brought the overtime magic for the #Isles in Game 2.
— NHL on NBC Sports (@NHLonNBCSports) June 1, 2021
“It’s been a really long time,” Cizikas said. “You’re just trying to do the right thing in overtime, be in the right spots. I was lucky for that puck to pop off in the middle and give me an opportunity to get that one.”
It capped an already wild night in Boston that had seen the New York Islanders rally from an early deficit only to give up a two-goal lead in the third period. Goals from Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand erased the Isles 3-1 lead.
Marchand set up Boston’s first goal of the third period by sending the puck to Bergeron in the high slot for a one-timer that beat Islanders starter Semyon Varlamov on his blocker side at 10:34. Boston tied the game just under five minutes later when the Islanders were called for too many men on the ice.
Marchand beat Varlamov off a wrister from inside the faceoff circle to tie the game.
“It takes everyone,” Josh Bailey said about the win. “Zee, so happy for him. He deserves it. Might not even had to get there if I didn’t cause that too many men. Ultimately, really happy to see it go in and Varly had a great game. I thought every just buckled down and thankfully we got the job done here tonight.”
Varlamov returned to the Isles’ net on Monday as Trotz opted to turn to his veteran netminder after rolling with rookie Ilya Sorokin through the final three games of the Islanders series with Pittsburgh and the first game against Boston. Varlamov made 39 saves in Game 2 and was sharp for the better part of the 60-plus minute affair.
One of his biggest stops came in the overtime period when he robbed Taylor Hall moments before Cizikas’ game-winner.
“It was pretty easy the decision,” Trotz said about starting Varlamov. “He was 5-1 (against Boston), his goals against were under 2, he’s a veteran, he’s not scared of these moments and he’s been a rock for us all year. I hope he gets a ton of votes for Vezina, at least be a finalist. He’s been one of our MVP’s this year.”
🎥 Trotz Postgame Availability 🎥 pic.twitter.com/Wsa3cIkVw1
— x – New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) June 1, 2021
Monday was another character win for the Islanders, who have had so many already during their playoff run this season.
New York found itself trailing early on after Varlamov had given up a goal on Boston’s first shot of the game. Charlie Coyle danced around Nick Leddy and then slid the puck past the leg of Varalmov 2:38 into the game.
It took some time, but the Islanders did find their footing and in the second period tied the game at one. Bailey caught a lucky break when a centering pass attempt hit ping-ponged off the skate of a Boston player and went into the net.
The Islanders took their first lead of the night at the 11-minute mark when Leddy fired the puck off the end boards and Kyle Palmieri pushed the puck on net. It squeaked by Rask and put the New York Islanders up 2-1.
They extended their lead to 3-1 late in the period while on the power play. Mathew Barzal did a good job of moving the puck down low to Anthony Beauvillier, who in turn made a Spin-O-Rama pass to Jean-Gabriel Pageau for the goal on the doorstep.
“This is sort of a character win for us,” Trotz said. “There’s no one who has bigger character in our dressing room and is loved than Casey. He gives everything he’s got shift in and shift out. Total team guy… for him to score a big goal like that, I guarantee you when he came in, our room exploded with guys hugging him… That’s what makes this group very special.
“They love to spend time together, they love playing and being accountable to each other. Everybody is a hero in our room.”
Game 3 is on Thursday at the Nassau Coliseum on Long Island.