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Islanders hold off Bruins, take 3-2 lead in series

Brock Nelson of the Islanders reacts after scoring

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

BOSTON – It’s probably a good time to use "unflappable" to describe the New York Saints – sorry Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy, make that the Islanders –and goalie Semyon Varlamov.

The Bruins had more dangerous chances – too many dangerous chances – and often flustered the Islanders into defensive-zone turnovers. But the Islanders, after a rocky start and a nail-biting finish, are on the brink of advancing to the NHL semifinals for the second straight season thanks to Varlamov’s 40 saves and their 3-for-4 power play.

"I think we do stay pretty calm," said coach Barry Trotz after the Islanders won Game 5, 5-4, on just 19 shots Monday night before 17,400 at TD Garden to take a 3-2 lead in the second-round series.

Game 6 is Wednesday night at Nassau Coliseum.

"There’s times we’re like a duck on the water, the feet are moving like crazy but I think we’re able to stabilize," said Trotz, who called a crucial timeout after David Krejci stuffed in the puck to bring the Bruins within a goal with 5:17 left in regulation, whittling away the Islanders’ three-goal lead early in a third period in which they were outshot, 18-3. "At the end of the day, there’s only one stat that you can count. It’s not the shots on goal. It’s the score clock."

Cassidy and Trotz engaged in a back-and-forth after the game stemming from Trotz’s Sunday complaint that Bruins’ top-line center Patrice Bergeron cheated on faceoffs. Cassidy, angry in general about the Game 5 officiating, said the Islanders push the narrative they’re the "New York Saints." Trotz said he didn’t know what Cassidy was talking about but noted the Islanders were the NHL’s least penalized team.

David Pastrnak’s power-play goal at 3:48 of the third period – like his goal at 1:25 of the first period, a one-timer from the left circle set up by defenseman Charlie McAvoy – brought the Bruins within 5-3 as they were 1-for-2 on the man advantage.

Brock Nelson had made it 5-2 at 1:59 of the third period on the third shot against Jeremy Swayman. Tuukka Rask allowed four goals on 16 shots through two periods and Cassidy acknowledged his starting goalie was not 100% healthy.

The Islanders scored three power-play goals in a playoff game – including Mathew Barzal at 18:49 of the one-sided first period to make it 1-1 – for the first time since April 23, 2002.

"They came at us hard early, I think Varly did a good job," said Josh Bailey, who gave the Islanders a 3-2 lead at 14:30 of the second period after Brad Marchand’s great individual effort to get around defenseman Ryan Pulock and to the crease tied it at 2 at 7:27. "We just had to hang in there but we turned the game around as it went on."

Trotz split up Nelson’s line with Anthony Beauvillier and Bailey – inserting Jean-Gabriel Pageau between the wings – after the trio was on ice for the Bruins’ first two goals.

"Give them credit, they were winning battles and we weren’t," Jordan Eberle said. "We weren’t hard on pucks and we found ourselves behind."

But Barzal’s goal allowed the Islanders to regroup.

"That was key," said Barzal, who beat Rask with a rising shot from the slot. "We probably didn’t deserve to have the game at 1-1. They probably could have had three or four in the first period. The power play was huge tonight."

The Islanders’ power play also connected as Kyle Palmieri made it 2-1 at 4:49 of a three-goal second period and Eberle upped that to 4-2 at 16:38.

Lee on ice for morning skate. Anders Lee, the injured and out-for-the-season Islanders captain, was on the ice for the optional morning skate on Monday at TD Garden, less than three months after tearing his right anterior cruciate ligament and requiring surgery. He worked in his usual spot in front of the crease trying to deflect pucks, along the walls and ended his lengthy workout with side-to-side stopping and starting. But Trotz repeated he won’t be ready until training camp. "He will not return in the playoffs unless we play into September," Trotz said. "He has a long road."

New York Sports