After the Boston Bruins erased third-period deficits in Games 2 and 5, New York Islanders fans could be forgiven for being a little nervous when Brad Marchand scored five minutes into the third period. Facing elimination, Boston would surely be the hungrier, desperate team.
After the goal, the Islanders led 4-2, but the next 13 minutes told an amazing tale. Boston didn’t get another shot on goal until the final 82 seconds of the game.
Zero shots for nearly 13 minutes.
“We know you have to bring your best game. I look back at Game 7 against Philadelphia (last season)– was as good a game we played in a closeout game, and we know we had to do that,” Islanders head coach Barry Trotz said. “Those experiences… that’s what allows you to have success, to understand the moment. We don’t get too far in front of the moment. We weren’t thinking about Boston, we were thinking about the next shift.”
The Islanders are in the NHL’s final four again. Unheralded. Underappreciated. Most pundits picked the Pittsburgh Penguins in Round One. More, still, picked Boston in Round Two.
Yet for a second straight year, the Islanders are one of the last four teams still standing after a 6-2 win in Game 6 at the Nassau Coliseum on Wednesday night.
After Marchand netted his second of the game and eighth goal of the playoffs, you may assume that Boston would be the desperate team, but the Islanders scored the last two goals of the series. Both were empty netters in the waning minutes to seal Boston’s fate.
The stout defensive work in the third period stands as one of the Islanders’ best in recent memory and best of the Barry Trotz Islanders era. The New York Islanders consistently stifled the Bruins zone entries.
Again–zero shots for almost 13 minutes of the third period in a series-clinching game.
Strong forechecks, good sticks in the neutral zone, and aggressive plays at the defensive blue line kept the Bruins off the scoreboard.
Boston had only five shots in the third period. Yes, five. In an elimination game, the Islanders held the team that needed to win to low single digits. After Marchand’s goal, the next Boston shot on goal came with 1:22 remaining on an easy shot by Jake DeBrusk.
In the final minutes, the Islanders were relentless and hemmed Boston into their own zone. Boston had six chances and three high danger scoring chances, but only five shots on goal.
The highlight of the period was the puck possession by Jean-Gabriel Pageau’s line. On a singular shift, the line controlled the puck in the offensive zone for 1:20. The line also scored two goals as Kyle Palmieri, and Travis Zajac lit the lamp.
“It always helps when you play with the lead,” Zajac said. “We showed as a team that we’re comfortable with any type of game in any situation. We’ve shown a lot of adversity in these playoffs. It was nice to play with a lead throughout the game.”
According to NaturalStatTrick.com, the Islanders held the Bruins “Perfection Line” (yes, Marchand scored twice but once on the power play) to a 34.78% Corsi. The Islanders clamped down and will advance to the NHL semi-finals.
In other years, they would play the Tampa Bay Lightning for the Prince of Wales Trophy, but this year it’s just the semi-finals.
As chants of “We want the Lightning” rained down from the rafters of the old Coliseum, which is hosting its final hockey games before the Islanders enjoy their new digs at Belmont Park next season, the additional significance of advancing wasn’t lost on the Islanders.
“We recognized this was a special moment for this building,” Trotz said. “Guys understood the magnitude of this game and the importance of this game. This is a group that’s very easy — you don’t have to say many things.”
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