Barry Trotz started with one thought – get defenseman Johnny Boychuk back in – and the Islanders coach figured he’d construct the rest of the Islanders’ lineup from there.
Boychuk, dressing for the first time since sustaining a head injury in Game 1 of the qualifying series against the Panthers on Aug. 1, logged 12:04 with six blocked shots and five credited hits in the Islanders’ 2-1 double overtime win over the Lightning in Tuesday night’s Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals, pulling within 3-2 in the series.
Boychuk was the seventh defenseman as Trotz went with an unusual configuration of 11 forwards and seven defensemen.
"It went pretty well," Boychuk said. "It seemed to work out, we got the win. It was nice to come back in, it’s been a while."
Boychuk had an interesting first period back, blocking three shots. That included getting doubled over by a Nikita Kucherov blast to his midsection at 6:34 and a Cedric Paquette shot that knocked off his skate blade at 18:34 and forced goalie Semyon Varlamov to push him toward the Islanders’ bench.
"You know he’s going to be on adrenaline," Trotz said. "Johnny is one of the most unique guys you’ll come across. He’s old school. He’s one of the most likeable guys you’re ever going to meet. He’s fearless. He’s a little bit of a father figure for the younger guys."
The Islanders had five players log at least 30 minutes: Mathew Barzal (31:28), Josh Bailey (31:11) and Brock Nelson (30:46) and defensemen Adam Pelech (31:59) and Nick Leddy (31:00). Kucherov logged a game-high 36:19 for the Lightning and defenseman Victor Hedman had 36:12 of ice time…Jean-Gabriel Pageau won 23-of-43 faceoffs (53%). Overall, the Islanders won 42-of-76 draws (55%)…Defenseman Ryan Pulock scored his first goal since Game 2 of the qualifying series.