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The Boston Bruins struggled with turnovers and lengthy defensive shifts beginning in the second period of their Game 2 matchup with the New York Islanders.
Bruce Cassidy’s squad faced a 3-1 deficit after two. The Islanders earned a few breaks with friendly bounces on Josh Bailey’s equalizer and Kyle Palmeri’s go-ahead tally 3:08 apart. Then a penalty kill breakdown left Jean-Gabriel Pageau all alone to give the Isles a two-goal cushion late in the second.
The Bruins battled back in front of another raucous TD Garden crowd. Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand (on the power play) sent the Causeway St. faithful into a frenzy with their fourth goals of the postseason at 10:34 and 15:06 of the final frame.
Bergeron and company started off slow in overtime. After some lengthy shifts in the defensive end, they found their skating legs. But an ugly habit crept up on them at an ill-advised moment as Casey Cizikas intercepted Jeremy Lauzon’s head-scratching feed off Charlie Coyle’s skates and promptly converted on a breakaway for the Isles’ series-tying 4-3 victory.
“A couple of bad breaks for some of their goals, but that’s hockey,” Coyle said after notching his second goal of the playoffs 2:38 into Monday’s tilt. “It’s a game of inches.”
Here’s what we learned as the series shifts to Long Island for Games 3 and 4.
The second-year Bruins defenseman encountered his share of ups and downs in a quest to become an NHL regular. On Monday, he found himself in a rut.
Lauzon found himself on the ice for three of the four Islander tallies. His mishaps led directly to a pair of goals, first with a bounce off the skates on Bailey’s second-period equalizer.
The Islanders hemmed the Bruins deep in the attacking end early in overtime. Lauzon found himself on the ice for two long shifts but came out of it unscathed. In fact, he saved the game earlier with a timely shot block on Bailey earlier in the extra session.
Lauzon’s shot-blocking effort went for naught, though. The Bruins established quality puck possession toward the end of overtime. They could’ve developed more scoring chances if Lauzon made the simple play along the boards or throwing a shot toward the net. Instead, he promptly turned the puck over to Cizikas and the rest was history.
“We made a play that was ill-advised and they scored on a breakaway,” Cassidy said of Lauzon’s costly blunder.
“That’s one that had to go back down along the wall or toward the net. At the end of the day, you learn from it. We did some good things in the third up top and in overtime we started spreading them out better and it led to some offense. But unfortunately, that one [play by Lauzon] did not.”
The Val-d’Or, Quebec-born blue-liner will hear his share of criticism from the fanbase and the media following his rough night. But the tight-knit Bruins’ locker room has his back.
Unlike Alex Ovechkin ranting at Ilya Samsonov after his Game 3 double-overtime miscue, the Bruins will try to lift Lauzon’s spirits in the next 48 hours. After all, Marchand and company committed their own untimely errors at certain points of their careers.
“[Expletive] happens,” Marchand said of Lauzon. “He’s a great player for us. He competes very hard, and he’s out there every night working his butt off and competing for the group. We all make mistakes. We’ve all been there. It’s tough when it happens to you, but we’re going to bounce back. It’s not the end of the world — it’s 1-1 and we just have to work on that next one. So it’s all about how we regroup in here and move forward. That’s the thing about the playoffs. You have to have a quick memory and just worry about the next day.”
Lauzon’s turnover capped off a back-and-forth affair. Amidst other areas of frustration, Boston’s leaders put them in a position to take a 2-0 series lead.
Whenever the Bruins find themselves in a hole, they often turn to the potent Marchand-Bergeron duo. Over the last decade, the dynamic pair provided the loyal Boston fanbase with thrilling overtime winners and comeback efforts, both in victory and defeat.
So it came to no surprise that the Bruins found themselves within striking distance of a 2-0 series lead because of Bergeron and Marchand.
Bergeron brought the Garden crowd back to their feet with his shot from the slot — in a similar area from his historic tying tally in Game 7 against the Maple Leafs in 2013.
Marchand evened things up with a power-play marker 33 seconds after the Islanders received a too many men penalty.
Boston’s top line had their way with the Islanders in Game 1 behind David Pastrnak’s hat trick. They encountered their fair share of chances in Game 2, but Barry Trotz’s club kept the Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak trio in check through two periods with their tight-checking and solid layers in front of Semyon Varlamov.
Ideally, the Bruins will want Craig Smith to return from his lower-body ailment sooner rather than later to balance out the top-six. But the top trio appears ripe to take full control of this second-round matchup.
Ilya Sorokin did all he could to keep the Islanders afloat in Game 1. But the top line overwhelmed a heavy Isles bunch as Sorokin suffered his first career playoff loss.
Varlamov struggled in his two appearances against the Penguins in the first round. Yet, he developed quite the success against the Bruins this season, losing just one of his six starts in the regular season.
With that in mind, Trotz tabbed Varlamov for the Game 2 start. The Russian netminder stood tall in his 39-save outing with six coming in the extra session, none bigger than his stop on Taylor Hall on the doorstep moments before Cizikas’s game-winner.
Rask made some timely stops as well in overtime. Yet, he wasn’t as sharp as Varlamov. He showcased some discomfort in the middle period, fighting the puck more often than not as the Isles found their skating legs.
In the end, the Isles received one more bounce than the Bruins, and Varlamov made one more stop than Rask.
“I just don’t think he tracked pucks as well tonight,” Cassidy said of Rask’s 35-save performance in Game 2. “They had more traffic in front of the net, and they got some bounces. Let’s face it, the first goal went in on our skate, and the last goal hit our skate and leads to a breakaway. Sometimes you have to be fortunate in this game, too. They took advantage of the last good bounce…and sometimes that’s just the way it goes. You have to persevere, and I thought we did. But as far as Tuukka goes, they finished a breakaway at the end. They were one save better than us…we certainly had our looks in overtime, but we didn’t convert and they did. That’s how overtimes usually come to an end.”
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