After three straight wins against the Buffalo Sabres, the New York Islanders faced a top-tier opponent in the Boston Bruins on Tuesday night and did not disappoint.
A 1-1 game all the way through a frenzied overtime, the Islanders skated to their first shootout win in a year with a 2-1 victory. Through 13 games at home, the Islanders have a perfect point percentage at Nassau Coliseum.
For a game that only saw two official goals, there was plenty of action, near misses and some scrapping between the two clubs.
“Once we got it tied up, I felt good about the third, I really did,” Barry Trotz said. “I think our group thought that they could get to their game and I thought we did.”
Let’s take a closer look in this Plus/Minus breakdown.
One could argue Semyon Varlamov is the Islanders’ MVP this season and probably come out on the right end of the debate. The netminder was at it again Tuesday, stopping 32 of 33 shots.
He was perfect at even strength with 28 saves, yielding just one goal to David Pastrnak on the power play in the first period. Had he not had an issue with his skate and lost his balance, it may have been a shutout. In the second with a seemingly open net Varlamov stopped David Krejci with his stick to save an easy goal.
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“That was a big save in the right moment,” Varlamov said. “The score that goal, it would be 2-0. I was kinda out of position and the puck bounced back right on his stick. … I had a chance to stop with my stick, it was kinda lucky.”
Great positioning later in the game kept it a tie score, as Jack Studnicka nearly chipped one in from the short side while Varlamov had his head turned in the other direction. But his right pad was in the right place to keep the puck out of the net.
But he was perfect the rest of the way, including five saves in the 3-on-3 overtime. In the shootout Pastrnak was the only one to beat him, but Varlamov denied Charlie Coyle and Brad Marchand to seal it.
Now through 19 games, Varlamov is third in the league with a .929 save percentage. At even strength, it’s .932. Right now, he’s a legitimate Vezina Trophy Candidate.
It had been a long time since the Islanders had won in a shootout. The last time they did it was on Feb. 4, 2020 against the Dallas Stars. And in fact, they hadn’t won a game outside of regulation in 2021.
They changed that with two goals in the shootout against Boston. Jordan Eberle got on the board first before Mathew Barzal missed his opportunity. Anthony Beauvillier, who came in with only four attempts in his career, made his fifth one count. In a move reminiscent of Frans Nielsen’s days with the Islanders, Beauvillier used the forehand-backhand deke move and roofed one over Jaroslav Halak.
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Power play strikes again
A strong February on the man advantage hasn’t translated exactly the same way to March, but the Islanders got one back on the man advantage, after Oliver Wahlstrom and Brad Marchand got into it after the former’s hit/boarding on Connor Clifton. The Islanders ended up with a two-minute power play after Marchand got four minutes in the box.
Thanks to some tic-tac-toe passing from Mathew Barzal and Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Brock Nelson potted his sixth power play goal of the year. Overall, they finished 1-for-2 on the man advantage.
Once things settled down after the first few minutes of the game, Boston controlled a lot of the pace and possession at 5-on-5 really for the first 40 minutes of the game.
The shot attempts reflect that, held a Corsi For Percentage of 58.3 and 57.5 in the first two periods, according to Natural Stat Trick. The Islanders rebounded with a strong third period, but without Varlamov making some key saves, the scoreboard could’ve easily opened up in Boston’s favor.
This isn’t so much of a minus on the Islanders but a weird call by the officials. Wahlstrom was called for two boarding penalties Tuesday, the first of which … didn’t involve the boards. There might have been reason to call a penalty there, but that his hit on Jarred Tinordi didn’t force the Boston defenseman into the wall. It was a head-scratching call.