The Islanders have often said they prefer to compete in physical games, the nastier, the better.
Well, Game 4 of their second-round playoff series certainly had the Islanders in their element, and they bulldozed their way to a 4-1 win over the Bruins on Saturday night at Nassau Coliseum.
The Islanders, who knotted the series at two games apiece, now travel to Boston for Game 5 at 6:30 p.m. Monday.
Mathew Barzal came through with the game-winner at 13:03 of the third period, swatting a loose puck out of the air past Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask for the 2-1 lead. The Islanders’ star center also assisted on Kyle Palmieri’s game-tying goal in the second.
Casey Cizikas and Jean-Gabriel Pageau both potted empty-netters for good measure late in the third period.
The Bruins struck first with a power-play goal that stemmed from a Matt Martin holding penalty in the offensive zone at 2:46 of the second period. David Krejci got one through a scramble in front of Islanders goalie Semyon Varlamov, which prompted head coach Barry Trotz to challenge for goaltender interference. The goal was upheld.
After Rask denied a handful of opportunities, Barzal fended off Bruins fourth-liner Curtis Lazar with some sharp skating along the boards before dishing to Palmieri for the shot in front to tie it up 1-1 at 6:38 of the second.
It was the second goal the Islanders have generated in the past two games with Palmieri skating on the top line alongside Barzal.
The chippy play continued. Barzal was speared where the sun don’t shine by Krejci during a cross check-filled battle in the corner. It was originally ruled a major penalty, but then was changed to a two-minute minor.
The Islanders couldn’t capitalize anyway, as they went 0-for-2 on the power play throughout the night.
Tensions boiled over in a scoreless first period, with scrums breaking out after nearly every whistle. In just the second fight of his NHL career, according to hockeyfights.com, Bruins deadline acquisition Taylor Hall took on Scott Mayfield. And after Barzal cross-checked Lazar, which several Bruins took exception to, Martin and Jarred Tinordi exchanged blows.
Both teams whiffed on prime opportunities to open the scoring. Taking a slick feed from Josh Bailey, Anthony Beauvillier couldn’t lift the puck over Rask at 14:56. Roughly two minutes later, Varlamov was caught far out of the crease, but David Pastrnak hit the far post from the left circle despite the wide-open net.