Islanders’ Varlamov, Power Play & Barzal Battle Bruins to Game 5 Win

The New York Saints…I mean, Islanders defeated the Boston Bruins 5-4 at TD Garden on Monday night to take a 3-2 lead in their second-round series. Now they head back to Nassau Coliseum with the advantage in Game 6.

It was a gutsy, grinding effort in Boston with the Islanders scoring five goals on 19 shots to force Bruins goaltender, Tuuka Rask, out of the game in the third period in favor of rookie Jeremy Swayman. The Isles were opportunistic on their few shots and scoring chances, one of the many key factors to their success last night.

Here are the takeaways from Game 5.

The Power Play

The Islanders were 3/4 on their power play, raising their power-play percentage (PP%) to a whopping 40% against the Bruins in this series. This is especially surprising as the Isles only converted on their power play at 18.8%, and the Bruins penalty kill was highly effective, killing off penalties at 86% during the regular season. That was then, this is now.

The Islanders also had three different skaters find the back of the net on the power play. Mathew Barzal tied the game late in the first period with a snipe short side that beat Rask glove side.

“That was key,” Barzal said. “We probably didn’t deserve to have the game at 1-1… they probably could’ve had three or four in that first period. We just recouped, took a deep breath.”

The goal was a result of good puck movement by the Islanders’ power play, quarterbacked by rookie Noah Dobson, to force the Bruins’ penalty kill out of position; and when Barzal has room, he’s going to convert.

Kyle Palmieri kept the offense going just under five minutes into the second period. Getting pucks on net was the theme of the Islanders’ power play again, and Josh Bailey’s wrister deflected off a Bruins’ defender and landed at the skates of Palmieri at the opposite post. He was in the right place at the right time and deposited the rebound to give his team their first lead of Game 5.

Jordan Eberle joined the fun late in the third period, taking advantage of Jared Tinordi’s broken stick on Boston’s penalty kill. With basically 3 1/2 Bruins on the ice, Eberle received a great pass from Barzal and didn’t miss from the left circle, picking top-shelf glove side.

“I feel like our power play’s been pretty consistent through these playoffs,” Barzal said. “It’s helped us in a lot of games, whether it’s taking the lead or getting us back in the games, so we’re just trying to take what’s there. Obviously, Boston’s got a great PK, and so did [the] Pittsburgh [Penguins] (in the first round). It’s just a matter of bearing down on your chances and then shoot when you get a lane.”

It’s refreshing to see the power play working this well, something that will need to stay consistent if the Islanders want to continue their playoff run.

Barzal Stays Hot

Barzal’s emergence has been a sight for sore eyes. He was goalless in the first eight games of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs, but now has goals and five points in his last three games.

Both of his points came on the power play last night, and it’s great to see the team’s star player using his skill-set to take advantage. Since he scored his first goal in Game 2, Barzal has added 5-6 miles-per-hour to his game. He’s now skating with poise and strength through all three zones with a renewed sense of confidence to help the Islanders maintain puck possession.

In each of their last four games, he has been the Islanders’ best skater, which helps propel their depth over the Bruins giving Barry Trotz four strong units.

Varlamov Strong

The Bruins scored four goals, but don’t let that fool you. Varlamov made 40 saves, and was especially strong in the first 15 minutes of the first period where the B’s largely outplayed the Islanders with 11 shots on goal. Their superstars peppered the Islanders’ goaltender for three periods, increasing their shot count in each frame. Patrice Bergeron, Taylor Hall, and David Pastrnak ended the night with five shots on goal each Despite Pastrnak scoring twice, Varlamov was able to fend off the majority of the B’s chances.

Despite giving up his seventh goal (in 11 games this postseason) in the first five minutes of the first period, he buckled down and kept the Islanders in contention the rest of the way. He was strongest in the second period, displaying excellent lateral movement.

“We needed good goaltending, we got that,” Trotz said. “We knew they were going to come out early and they did. They scored the first goal and they got that. Then we got some timely goals. Our power-play got some timely goals, they made some mistakes and we capitalized.”

Coaching

It’s the little things Trotz does that help the Islanders win games. Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, consistently rolled the Bergeron line out against the Islanders’ second line. They took advantage early, so the Islanders’ head coach made a small tweak. J.G. Pageau and Brock Nelson flipped second and third-line duties, and Trotz rolled Pageau with Bailey and Anthony Beauvillier.

The new trio saw the majority of shifts against the Bergeron line, and Pageau helped them both in the faceoff circle and in their own zone.

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The Bruins made a push in the third period that saw them down by just one goal. In an attempt to sway the momentum, Trotz called a timeout with 5:17 remaining in the third period.

“We were backing up and I don’t like that,” Trotz said. “That’s not our style. You want to go forward. We said let’s get back to our game of pushing forward and I thought we stabilized that pretty well. I thought the last five minutes, our guys did an excellent job.”

Now, the Islanders are headed back to Nassau Coliseum to attempt to close the series out in six games at home. The Islanders’ formula will look to remain the same, with maybe just a few more shots on net. With the roar of the crowd at the Coliseum, the team will once again look to feed off the energy of the crowd to secure Game 6, and head to the Eastern Conference Final for the second straight season.

Want more Islanders content? Check out the Nassaumen Hockey Podcast, hosted by The Hockey Writers authors James Nichols and Jon Zella. Follow on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Google Podcasts!


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