On the heels of a crucial overtime victory that knotted their second-round Stanley Cup playoff series with Boston at one game apiece, the New York Islanders carry the momentum to their home ice Thursday night.
With the next two games at Nassau Coliseum, the Islanders look to take control of the best-of-seven Eastern Division series, which for a while Monday appeared to have gotten away from them.
New York blew a 3-1 lead in the last 10 minutes of the third period, only to escape Boston with the victory when Casey Cizikas scored on a breakaway at 14:48 of the extra period. The goal was Cizikas’ first in the playoffs since 2015.
“You’re just trying to do the right things in overtime, be in the right spots,” said Cizikas. “I was lucky, the puck popped into the middle there and gave me an opportunity.”
Despite the defeat, the Bruins could take solace in coming back to force overtime. The Islanders overcame a 1-0 deficit by scoring three second-period goals, but Boston did not wilt. Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand scored in a five-minute rally in the third, with Marchand’s power-play tally tying the score at 15:06.
“It’s something that we’ve done all year. We have a lot of character in our group and in our room, and we know when we get behind we can come back,” Marchand said. “Especially in playoff time, you can never count a team out. Doesn’t matter who it is.”
The Islanders expect to increase capacity to 12,000 fans for Thursday and Saturday games in Uniondale, N.Y., as COVID-19 restrictions continue to lift across the country.
“We know how that barn rocks,” Cizikas said. “We’re going to build off that crowd. We’re looking forward to it.”
Islanders goalie Semyon Varlamov will be looking to build off his stellar Game 2 performance. Valamov sat for four straight games in favor of rookie Ilya Sorokin, who was in net for all four victories of New York’s first-round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins. After Sorokin was in goal in the Islanders 5-2 Game 1 loss to the Bruins, Varlamov got the call Monday and turned away 39 shots to win.
“He’s not scared of these moments, and he’s been a rock for us all year,” said Islanders coach Barry Trotz, who says Varlamov should have been a contender for the Vezina Trophy. The goalie was left off the list of three finalists announced Tuesday.
Boston goalie Tuukka Rask has been reliable once again during these playoffs, though he’s been hampered by nagging injuries. Rask made 35 stops Monday, appearing to wince after allowing a goal in the second period.
“He’s been dealing with some injuries all year,” Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said Tuesday. “Right now, I don’t believe there’s any reason to think he won’t be ready to go (in Game 3), so that’s where we’re at with Tuukka.
“I don’t believe there will be anything to worry about. If there is, then obviously we’ll have to sort through that.”
In the aftermath of Game 2, Boston forward Jake DeBrusk was fined $5,000 for a cross-check on New York’s Scott Mayfield. DeBrusk was not penalized for the action.
–Field Level Media