After a disappointing Game 2 overtime loss to the Islanders in front of a packed TD Garden, the Bruins looked to regain control of the series at Nassau Coliseum.
Balancing the Bruins lines
Boston was given a big boost back into their lineup for the pivotal road contest. Second-line right-winger, Craig Smith, suffered a lower-body injury that caused him to leave Game 1 early. His presence was severely missed when he was unable to go in Game 2.
With David Krejci centering Taylor Hall and Smith, the second line produced 4 points in the series opener. When Jake DeBrusk got bumped up to Krejci’s wing with Smith out, that unit was not as effective. Not one of the forwards corralled a point in the 4-3 overtime defeat.
Smith did not take long to make his presence known on Long Island. Just under 6 minutes into the matchup, Hall made a great defensive play to strip Mathew Barzal of the puck. After a smooth zone entry by Matt Grzelcyk, Hall whipped a pass from the far dot to Smith, who was wide open in the slot. The winger wristed home the game’s first score, beating Semyon Varlamov high glove-side.
After that goal, Rask stifled the Islanders nearly the rest of the way.
A few minutes after Smith’s score, the white hot Anthony Beauvillier had a break away opportunity. Rask calmly knocked the attempt out of danger with his right forearm.
The Bruins gladly took a 1-0 lead into the first intermission, with NY beating them in shots 7-5.
Bruins cannot bury Islanders
Over the second and third periods, Boston dedicated pace of play. The Bruins outshot the Islanders 34-17 over the final 40 minutes of regulation. Unfortunately for the Bs, Varlamov was phenomenal between the pipes. Late in the second, he stoned Krejci with his right pad by beautifully sliding over in the crease. Furthermore, in the same period, he denied Nick Ritchie on a point-blank chance in between the dots.
After 40 minutes, Boston was up 1 and had to have been feeling good about their position.
Not even 2 minutes into the final frame, Andy Greene was penalized for high sticking Charlie Coyle. The Bruins had been successful on 3 of their 4 power play opportunities in the series. Boston was smelling blood.
However, Varlamov stood strong denying a myriad of great opportunities from Boston’s top point producers. The Bruins then failed to put the game away with a power play goal over half way through the final period. But after the kill, New York grabbed hold of the momentum.
Clifton where are you going?
They were peppering Boston in their own zone, hounding the Bruins and dominating possession. With five and half minutes to go, Barzal corralled the puck behind Boston’s net. For some reason, Connor Clifton skated around the left post and went behind the cage.
Barzal saw his chance and started jamming the puck against Rask’s right pad, which was hugging the post. But after 3 uncontested whacks at the rubber, Barzal knocked the puck past the goal-line, knotting the game at 1 a piece. After collecting 17 goals in 55 regular season games, it was the dynamic forward’s first of the postseason.
At that point, the Bruins were outshooting the Islanders 37 to 19.
2 Us, 2 Ks, Too many big saves to count
After finding new life, NY took it to Boston and would have won the game in regulation if not for Rask. The Bruins killed off a Sean Kuraly cross-checking infraction and went to overtime with the Islanders in complete control.
Not to mention, in the extra session, NY kept their foot on the gas. Just over two minutes into OT, Rask made an incredible sequence robbing Jordan Eberle before snuffing out a Barzal rebound chance.
Marchand scored from where?
Soon after, with the first line out there, Charlie McAvoy laid the puck into space and allowed Brad Marchand to skate after it. From the edge of the left face-off dot, he slung a wrister that surprised J.G. Pageau and Varlamov. On Boston’s 41st shot on goal, from an impossible angle no less, Marchand called game.
As the replay showed, the attempt appeared to hit that sweet spot where the crossbar meets the left post. The Islanders and the Coliseum were stunned, but the Bruins left the ice with an all important road win to snag back control of the series.
This was a massive victory for Boston but not just because they went up 2 games to 1. Game 3 would have been an atrocious loss. They were taking the game to the Islanders for most of the evening, until Clifton lost his space and Barzal took advantage. In overtime, NY was the aggressor while Boston sat back.
But Marchand grabbed a series lead from the Islanders with one of the most surreal shots in Bruins’ history.
Boston can exhale
If Boston lost that game, it would have been back to back back-breaking overtime losses in which they controlled tempo for most of the game but failed to step on NY’s throat when given the chance. Also, the media would have had a field day on Barzal’s goal, as Varlamov and the Islanders were able to deny a similar bid from Chris Wagner earlier in the contest.
But with Rask being nails after that score, and Marchand continuing to have a ridiculously clutch postseason, the Bruins regained control of the series. With Boston out-playing NY the majority of the time, the Bruins should be feeling confident heading into Saturday’s pivotal game 4.
Photo Courtesy of NY Post.
Story by Chad Jones.
Follow Chad on Twitter @shutupchadjones.