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With a 1-0 lead entering the third period, the Boston Bruins looked primed for a dagger, outshooting the New York Islanders 19-5 midway through that final 20 minutes. A pair of timely penalty kills and a Brandon Carlo exit later, the Islanders found their skating legs in the latter half of the third, eventually evening things up on Mat Barzal’s wrap-around equalizer.
For the first time all game, the Bruins entered survival mode. Playing with five defensemen, the Bruins’ instincts carried over into the early moments of overtime, with Tuukka Rask bailing them out with timely saves.
This came as the Bruins outshot the Islanders 21-9 in the third period, and 41-29 overall. Boston mustered only two shots on net in overtime, yet their second shot in sudden death somehow found the back of the net.
After staving off the Isles’ latest rush, the Bruins transitioned the puck up ice quickly. As he jumped on the ice for his shift, Marchand carried the puck over to the walls after Charlie McAvoy’s feed hoping for a tip, rebound, or even extended possession in the offensive zone. Instead, Marchand’s bad-angle shot wrist shot found its way past Semyon Varlamov a mere 3:36 into the extra session to give the Bruins the 2-1 series lead.
“Any puck, especially in overtime, has a chance to go in. That’s always something every team talks about going into overtime,” Marchand said following Boston’s 2-1 triumph in Game 3. “You can’t pass up a shot, and that’s another example of it.”
Here’s what we learned following another thrilling Bruins playoff win, this time in front of a hostile Isles fanbase at Nassau Coliseum.
Marchand’s reputation sometimes gets the better of him. Yet, he’s become a significant asset and has hardly been a liability over the last three seasons.
But Marchand’s previous antics have at times caught up to him at times during these playoffs. He hasn’t done anything to warrant a call from NHL Player Safety, but in certain instances, he put the Bruins in a tough spot during these first two rounds. In Game 3, Marchand delivered an accidental but head-scratching high-stick to Travis Zajac, who promptly sold the call like a professional wrestling veteran.
“I didn’t see the replay…it was more of an accidental one. He was pushing me and tried to push him back, and the stick kind of slid up,” Marchand said of his exchange with Zajac. “I can’t really comment how it hit him or if it hit him or not. But my stick definitely got high, and anytime your stick gets high, it makes it easier for it to call. He might have sold it a bit, but anybody is going to do that in that situation. That’s part of the game, and the guys did a good job at killing it off.”
The Bruins’ shorthanded unit came away with a timely kill midway through the first period to keep their 1-0 lead intact. They received another clutch penalty kill late in regulation after Sean Kuraly’s ill-advised cross-checking minor late in regulation.
Marchand and company developed good habits from the midway point of the second period through the first 10 minutes of the final frame. They needed to survive the Isles’ heaviest push of the night after that. Cassidy’s squad did just that, and Marchand ultimately bailed them out with his third career playoff OT tally.
“No shot is a bad shot, and Marshy showed that tonight,” forward Craig Smith said after scoring his second goal of the postseason in his return from a lower-body injury.
Marchand again delivered in the clutch. But the Bruins needed their all-time winningest netminder to keep them afloat.
Both the Islanders and Bruins established stout layers in front of Varlamov and Rask, respectively, through the first 40 minutes. The two squads traded chances only to result in blocked shots and other attempts missing the net.
As the chances eventually turned into shots on net, both teams relied on their goalies to come up with the clutch stops. Both did just that through, delivering timely saves late in Thursday’s tightly-checked tilt.
Like the Isles with Varlamov for a good 30-minute stretch, the Bruins needed Rask to come through in the third without Carlo’s services. The Finn relinquished his lone tally after Barzal’s hard-nosed effort with 5:26 left in regulation. The Isles’ heavy attack continued, but Rask positioned himself well for the timely stops, including a pair in overtime on an initial shot by Jordan Eberle and a rebound attempt from Barzal.
“He was rock solid,” Cassidy said of Rask. “I thought it was a great goaltended game from their guy and our guy, and that’s why you got it 1-1 heading into overtime. That’s what you expect in the playoffs.”
Rask labored through a tough overtime loss in Game 2. Following an extra day of rest, he hardly looked out of sorts in his 63:36 of action in Game 3.
In turn, the Bruins, again, benefitted from Rask’s calmness between the pipes.
“It’s always beneficial to have the extra rest between the games, I guess, no matter if you’re injured or not. I think the season has been very hectic thus far,” Rask said of his health. “But as far as my health goes, as long as I’m out there, it’s good enough.”
Rask and the Bruins salvaged a win without one of their steady right-shot defensemen at pivotal moments. But they may have their work cut out for them come Saturday night.
The Bruins encountered a lengthy run without Carlo earlier this year following his concussion at the hands of a Tom Wilson cheap shot. He returned after a month on the shelf, only to miss more time with another injury — unrelated to his concussion — before rejoining the team late in the regular season.
On Thursday, Carlo looked out of sorts following a third-period hit from Cal Clutterbuck, prompting the fifth-year defenseman into the locker room for further testing. But Cassidy noticed good spirits from Carlo as he greeted his teammates during the third intermission. In the immediate aftermath, the fifth-year Bruins bench boss provided an interesting update for Carlo’s Game 4 status.
“I talked to him there — I don’t know what to say. I guess he said he was feeling good, but I don’t know what it means relative to the hit that he took,” Cassidy said.
“We have a day in between, obviously. So if he can’t go, we have to sort through our options. You know, we’ve got all left sticks left, so who goes over and how does that work out if he can’t go. But I don’t want to rule him out until we see him in the morning and get a final word from our medical staff. It never looks good when you leave like that, but at the end of the day he was here talking to his teammates, so maybe he’ll be fine. Smitty [Smith] came back from an injury we were unsure on, so hopefully, it’s good news for Brandon as well.”
Ideally, the Bruins want Carlo at his usual spot next to Mike Reilly on the second defensive pairing. If Carlo doesn’t suit up on Saturday night, the Bruins will enter a tough scenario without him and Kevan Miller.
Jarred Tinordi becomes the likely candidate to enter Boston’s defense core in Carlo’s absence. The veteran skated in Game 5 of the Washington series after Capitals defenseman Dmitri Orlov delivered a high hit to Miller in Game 4.
Going with Tinordi over the inexperienced Urho Vaakanainen and Jakub Zboril — who resumed skating activities after sustaining a lower-body injury during the regular-season finale against the Caps — is the ideal scenario here. But the Bruins would have to move one of their left-shot blueliners to the right side. This might force Cassidy to break up the top pair of McAvoy and Matt Grezlecyk to balance out his three defensive units.
The Bruins missed Carlo’s presence as he watched postseason hockey from the press box in his first two years. His steady hand helped the back-end during their 2019 Stanley Cup run. As they sit 10 wins from ending a decade-long Cup drought, the last thing the Bruins need is an extended period of time without Carlo.
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