For all that madness in the final minutes of Wednesday night’s Islanders game, it was a few seconds of patience – that little bit of gritty ballet that Mathew Barzal calls hockey – that sealed the victory.
“Barzy in particular, I thought he set the tone,” Barry Trotz said after Barzal had notched the game-winning assist. “He was skating. He was dangerous . . . You wouldn’t know that this was [he and Devon Toews'] first playoff game.”
It’s only natural to be a little bit overexcited when it comes to playing in your first Stanley Cup Playoffs, but Barzal kept his emotions in check, especially when it mattered most. Around four minutes into overtime, he deked Brian Dumoulin, crossed up Matt Murray with his impeccable edgework . . . and missed. His shot hit the pipe, but his timing set up a barreling Josh Bailey with the rebound for the game-winner.
“I was thinking shot,” Barzal said. “I didn’t want to waste an opportunity but again, just trying to be patient . . . I hit the post and the puck was just sitting there and I was just so happy to see Bails come in. A huge goal for him.”
Added Bailey: “I was kind of tired. I was trying to catch up. Fortunately, Barzy [made the play].”
Pivotally, Barzal’s maturity came at a time when the Islanders had been tried the most. Two Tom Kuhnhackl shots – both potential goals – were waved off, one in the first period and another in the third. In the waning seconds of regulation, Bailey just barely missed – hitting the post in a shot he said would give him nightmares.
“We definitely had some ups and downs,” Barzal said. “I thought it deserved to go overtime. It was a heck of a game and if the series is going to be like that, it’s going to be an enjoyable series for the fans.”
Sounds like someone who got a taste of the playoffs and is ready for more.
Correction: A prevoius version of this story said Barzal deked Olli Maatta.