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Islanders' Game 5 win may be sign of something special

Mathew Barzal of the Islanders reacts with teammates

Mathew Barzal of the Islanders reacts with teammates after scoring in the first period in Game 5 of the second round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Bruins at TD Garden on Monday in Boston. Credit: Getty Images/Adam Glanzman

The Islanders still need nine more victories to get to the finish line, but sometimes it is impossible to ignore the hockey gods when they are trying to tell us something.

Maybe it’s your year when you get dominated by the Bruins both early and late in a playoff road game, yet somehow find a way to win, 5-4, and get within one victory of a return to the NHL’s final four.

Maybe it’s your year when you achieve said victory by going 3-for-4 on the power play when in the regular season you ranked 20th in that category (18.8%) and faced a Boston team that ranked second in killing penalties (86.%).

Maybe it’s your year when a couple of those power-play goals follow questionable penalty calls and another is helped by a defenseman breaking his stick.

Or when the best hockey line in the world — David Pastrnak, Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand — is at the top of its game.

Or when your goaltender, Semyon Varlamov, outperforms his more decorated counterpart, Tuukka Rask, who gets pulled after two periods in favor of a rookie named Jeremy Swayman.

"At the end of the day, there’s only one stat you can count," coach Barry Trotz said. "It’s not the shots on goal. It’s the score clock."

Oh, forgot to mention: The Bruins outshot the Islanders, 44-19.

Said Josh Bailey, "Found a way to get it done. That’s what matters most."

To add to the fun of a wildly entertaining series in advance of Game 6 on Wednesday at Nassau Coliseum, Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy poured oil on the fire after the game.

Upset with the officiating, he accused the Islanders of "selling a narrative" that they are an aggrieved party that is "more like the New York Saints" than the Islanders.

Presumably, Cassidy was unaware that the Saints were an actual National Lacrosse League team that used to play at, wait for it . . . Nassau Coliseum!


Asked to comment on the "Saints" accusation, Trotz said: "You’ll have to ask him about that. Just look at where we ended up during the year. We were one of the least-penalized teams in the whole league. I don’t know what he means by that."

The Bruins badly outplayed the Islanders in the first period, yet it ended with the score tied at 1.

"That was key," said Mathew Barzal, whose power-play goal in the first period — his third goal in three games — tied it. "Obviously, we probably didn’t deserve to have the game at 1-1. They came out pressing. They probably could have had three or four in the first period."

The Islanders led 4-2 after two, at which time Cassidy pulled Rask, whom he said is not fully healthy. Then Brock Nelson scored 1:59 into the third to make it 5-2.

The Bruins were not done. Pastrnak scored his second goal of the night at 3:48 of the third, and the Bruins came at Varlamov in waves, finally making it 5-4 with 5:17 left when David Krejci’s shot squirted over the goal line.

"They made us uncomfortable," Trotz said.

But somehow, the Islanders survived.

"Whenever guys are out there competing like dogs, the whole group gets fired up," Barzal said.

Said Bailey, "Guys just kept fighting. Guys were paying the price, blocking shots, to do whatever they can to get the win."

It was a victory that made no sense, and it was the second time in these playoffs the Islanders escaped with a win in a game in which they were outplayed in a key spot.

The same thing happened in Game 5 against the Penguins in Pittsburgh in the first round. The Islanders then closed it out in Game 6 at the Coliseum.

See you Wednesday night!

New York Sports