The sellout crowd at Nassau Coliseum had a few chants throughout Sunday's Game 3 thriller. There was "MVP" for John Tavares, a couple scattered "Halak" chants for goaltender Jaroslav Halak and, perhaps a bit unlikely, a Johnny Boychuk chant as the second period ended, even though Boychuk's name doesn't appear on the final scoresheet.
They were rewarding a superb defensive effort from Boychuk in the final minute of the second, when he blocked three Alex Ovechkin shots and then spread-eagled to swipe the puck off Ovechkin's stick to prevent a scoring chance as the seconds ticked down.
Boychuk's work against Ovechkin helped keep it close in the Islanders' 2-1 overtime win, with Jack Capuano taking advantage of the home-ice last line change to get Boychuk and Nick Leddy on against Ovechkin as often as possible.
"He does everything for us," Tavares said of Boychuk, who had four blocked shots in the game. "You can tell he's played however many playoff games  he's played. He's able to understand the situation and execute and still have the calmness and composure to make smart plays."
Travis Hamonic is still sidelined by a suspected left-knee injury so the responsibility of marking Washington's No. 8 falls to Boychuk. His importance defending at even strength and on the penalty kill was illustrated by that final minute of the second, when Boychuk made sure to cheat out on Ovechkin in the right faceoff circle to keep him from unleashing his patented one-timer.
It was also illustrated on the tying goal. After an icing and an Islanders timeout, the Caps changed their personnel to put Ovechkin out; the Isles could not change and had Leddy and Brian Strait. Nicklas Backstrom won the faceoff, the Caps worked the puck around and scored while Boychuk hung halfway over the boards, waiting in vain for a chance to hop on.
"It's just your job," Boychuk said. "He's an excellent player, the best goal scorer in the game right now. You have to pay attention to him at all times. If you don't, you're probably going to be going home early."
Ovechkin had nine of his 14 shot attempts blocked and, even though he was screening Halak on Backstrom's goal, Ovechkin was never in position for a good scoring chance. Tavares' line was on against Ovechkin's much of the game and the Caps' captain had a good view of Tavares' overtime winner.
So did Boychuk. It seems that the matching game has begun for the Islanders and it's their advantage after Game 3.
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