The Islanders have often said they prefer to compete in physical games, the nastier, the better.
Between two fights in the first period, both teams combining for 30 penalty minutes and several tussles after the whistle, the Islanders were right in their element Saturday night in Game 4 of their second-round playoff series. It ultimately powered them to a 4-1 win over the Bruins at Nassau Coliseum.
“That’s the way we’re built,” head coach Barry Trotz said regarding his team’s physicality after the win, which evened the series 2-2 heading back to Boston for Game 5 on Monday night. “That’s the way our roster has been created. We know who we are. We don’t try to be someone else or someone who you want us to be.”
Tensions boiled over in a scoreless first period, with scrums breaking out left and right. In just the second fight of his NHL career, according to hockeyfights.com, Bruins deadline acquisition Taylor Hall took on Scott Mayfield.
“I think I’ve seen that line quite a bit, as far as matchups go, so we’re playing a lot against each other,” Mayfield said of his bout with Hall. “He likes to get to the net, and he’s got speed, so I need to make sure I’m physical on him. Playoffs can get emotional, and I think that’s what was.
“Good for him, you know, he’s not known for doing that, that’s for sure.”
Shortly after that, Mathew Barzal cross-checked Curtis Lazar, to which several Bruins took exception. It led to Matt Martin and Jarred Tinordi exchanging blows, with Martin landing most of them.
The chippy play dropped off a bit after the first period, but still popped up occasionally. Barzal was speared where the sun don’t shine by Bruins No. 2 center David Krejci in the second period during a cross check-filled battle in the corner. Originally ruled a major penalty, it was changed to a two-minute minor.
“I’m alright now. I was a little surprised,” Barzal said of the changed penalty. “I haven’t seen the clip, I felt it was a little vicious.”
Islanders goalie Semyon Varlamov, in his third straight start, stopped 28 of the 29 shots he faced.
When Krejci capitalized on the Bruins’ power play at 2:46 of the second period, Islanders coach Barry Trotz challenged for goaltender interference. The goal was ultimately upheld, and the Islanders had to go right back on the penalty kill.
“Varly couldn’t move his leg, and that was what we told the referee,” Trotz said. “We got it wrong, so I thanked all the guys for the next penalty kill. They did a great job and gave us momentum after that. Those are the challenges that you try to make at the appropriate time, and we were wrong tonight, unfortunately.”
Trotz said there is a possibility Oliver Wahlstrom, who missed a fifth straight game with a lower-body injury, could play at some point this series.
Bruins defenseman Brandon Carlo was ruled out ahead of Game 4 after taking a hard hit from Cal Clutterbuck in the third period of Game 3.