Mathew Barzal and Semyon Varlamov were dealing with mixed emotions following the New York Islanders’ 2-1 overtime loss to the Boston Bruins in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Second Round at Nassau Coliseum on Thursday.
Instead of being excited about their standout performances that helped the Islanders reach overtime after being outplayed for much of the third period, Barzal and Varlamov were looking to move on quickly from a disappointing ending on Brad Marchand‘s goal 3:36 into sudden death.
“It was a good game,” Barzal said. “Both teams were playing hard. … I think I’ve said it before, it’s tough for about 10 minutes and then it’s the playoffs, so you turn the page.”
New York has no choice, trailing 2-1 in the best-of-7 series with Game 4 here Saturday (7:15 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS). But it would’ve been easy for it to think about what might have been had overtime gone differently.
After Barzal scored his first goal of the Stanley Cup Playoffs to tie it 1-1 with 5:26 remaining in regulation, the Islanders center had a great chance to score the winner on the rebound of Jordan Ebele’s shot in front 2:08 into overtime. Instead, Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask was in good position to make the pad save before snagging the puck out of the air with his glove.
“Tuukka made a great save,” Barzal said. “Usually in those situations, I thought I was in tight and just wanted to sneak one five-hole, but he was there. He was big all night for them, as was [Varlamov]. So it’s unfortunate.”
Varlamov stopped 38 consecutive shots after Craig Smith‘s goal that gave Boston a 1-0 lead at 5:52 of the first period. That included 13 saves in the second period and 21 in the third to keep New York within one until Barzal’s tying goal.
But in overtime, Marchand’s sharp-angle shot from along the left boards appeared to surprise Varlamov, who looked to be in the process going down to hug the right post when the puck went over his left shoulder and in off the top of the right post.
“We just finished the game, I didn’t even see the replay,” Varlamov said. “So I’ve got to kind of go back in the locker room and I don’t really have an answer for you right now. It was kind of a weird shot, but the puck found the net. So it was a good play, I guess, by Marchand.”
It spoiled what was otherwise a positive night for Barzal and Varlamov, who provided plenty of reasons for New York to be optimistic about the rest of this series.
Barzal’s lack of goal-scoring had been a topic of almost daily discussion for the Islanders since before the second round began. He had three assists in six games against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round and was limited to an assist through the first two games against Boston.
So when he stuffed the puck in past Rask’s pad at the left post to tie the game Thursday, there was reason for relief.
“I was just yelling,” Barzal said. “Happy to score.”
Barzal finished with four shots on goal and six shot attempts and was one of the Islanders’ most dynamic offensive players in a game when they were limited to 24 shots on goal in regulation.
“I thought he had lots of jump in his game,” New York coach Barry Trotz said. “He was dangerous. We had some guys going tonight. He was one of them.”
Varlamov began the series on the bench after rookie Ilya Sorokin won the final three games of the first round against Pittsburgh. But Trotz decided to turn to the veteran after a 5-2 loss in Game 1, and he stepped up and made 39 saves in a 4-3 overtime win in Game 2.
With 39 more saves Thursday, Varlamov has stopped 78 of 83 shots he’s faced in the series.
“He’s been outstanding for us all year, and he made huge saves for us tonight and kept us in the game,” Islanders defenseman Ryan Pulock said. “That’s what we need out of him.”
Trotz said he is confident Varlamov will put the winning goal behind him quickly.
“That’s a seeing-eye puck that hits sort of almost a one-inch hole with a puck,” Trotz said. “That’s a shot that he’ll want back, but he’ll let it go. No different than he’s done many, many times before.”