Islanders turn blown Game 2 lead into valuable experience

When you’re a team that’s been a consistent playoff contender for the last three seasons with players that have been gelling together for years, every new experience is of value.

That’s at least how head coach Barry Trotz likes to view the Islanders’ blown 3-1 lead in the third period of Game 2 Monday night, before their eventual 4-3 overtime win over the Bruins.

In the moment, Trotz and the Islanders certainly would’ve preferred for a few of their opportunities to have found the back of the net to pad their lead. Defenseman Noah Dobson likely wishes he could’ve somehow gotten out of the way of screening goalie Semyon Varlamov from the Bruins’ Patrice Bergeron’s 3-2 score. And, no doubt, Josh Bailey would like to take back that too-many-men penalty he caused that led to Brad Marchand’s game-tying power-play goal.

But in a game of momentum swings against a feisty team like the Bruins, the push is expected and can’t always be contained. It’s how the Islanders responded that counts.

“I think you learn from all different experiences that you have in this league,” Matt Martin said after practice Wednesday ahead of Thursday’s Game 3 at Nassau Coliseum. “Ideally, you want to hang on to a 3-1 lead in the third period. We’ve done a pretty good job of that over the last three years since Trotz has been here. I liked our ability to reset and stay with and find a way to win a game.

Matt Martin #17 of the New York Islanders against Karson Kuhlman #83 of the Boston Bruins
Matt Martin and the Islanders found confidence in their reaction to Game 2 mistakes.
Getty Images

“It definitely builds confidence knowing that we have the group and we have a mature enough group to overcome any obstacles that come our way.”

In recent years, the Islanders are not a team that blows two-goal leads often. During the 2020-21 regular season, according to More Hockey Stats, they only lost three games when leading by two goals at some point. And when leading by three, the Isles only lost one game.

In fact, they’re a club that can take a stranglehold on a game when sitting with a comfortable lead and just run out the clock.

What Monday’s series-tying overtime win proved to the Islanders, was that they’re capable of overcoming a third-period breakdown. Trotz often lauds the Islanders’ team mentality, and it came through in overtime, when they controlled the pace before Casey Cizikas’ first playoff goal since 2015 secured the win and tied the series 1-1.

“I think it might have been one of the best things that happened to us [Monday] night was the fact that we did give up a 3-1 lead, and we did find a way to win at the end,’’ Trotz said Tuesday. “Those are things that can help you more than, us winning, scoring on the breakaway, and then [Anthony] Beauvillier scoring and making it 5-1, and it’s not much of a game.

“The experience of being up 3-1, and then giving up those two goals, and being able to get your game back and finding a way to win that hockey game after all the momentum in that game shifted to Boston, that’s a better experience for our hockey team. And when guys look back, they’ll go bring up those experiences next time it happens to us.’’

New York Post

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