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The New York Islanders fell behind after three games for the second straight series. Each time, they won three straight to advance, and now they’re headed to the Stanley Cup semifinals for the second straight year.
Brock Nelson scored twice in New York’s three-goal second period, Semyon Varlamov stopped 23 shots and the Islanders beat the Boston Bruins 6-2 in Game 6 on Wednesday night.
Kyle Palmieri, Trais Zajac, Cal Clutterbuck and Ryan Pulock also scored to set up a rematch with the defending champion Tampa Bay Lightning, who beat the Islanders in six games in the Eastern Conference finals last year in the bubble in Edmonton, Alberta.
The semifinal series schedule has not been released.
“If you want to win it all you got to beat the best,” Nelson said. “I don’t think anybody has been sitting here thinking about revenge on Tampa. Just trying to take it each game, each series, one at time. Now we can kind of turn the page and turn our focus to them. They’re obviously a great team, the defending champs here again. It’ll be a good battle.”
Josh Bailey, who had two assists, agreed with the sentiment.
“We feel we have some unfinished business,” he said. “We’ll enjoy tonight and we’ll start getting ready.
“You need everyone going to beat a team like that,” he said. “Everyone in the lineup was contributing, playing the way we needed to play to get the win. Certainly happy to move on.”
Jean-Gabriel Pageau also had two assists to help New York finish off Boston in a front of a raucous home crowd at Nassau Coliseum.
“Whenever you have the opportunity to close a team out, you want to bring your best,” Nelson said. “I thought we’ve been able to do that both times now, against Pittsburgh (in the first round) and Boston.”
After shutting down Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jake Guentzel in the first round, the Islanders weren’t as successful against Boston’s Perfection Line of Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak and Patrice Bergeron as the Bruins’ trio totaled 10 goals and 12 assists in the series.
“They’re an extremely skilled line and they definitely got their chances,” New York defenseman Adam Pelech said. “I thought we did a better job as the series went on. It’s tough to completely shut those guys down, they’re going to get their chances.”
However, the rest of the Bruins combined for just seven goals.
Marchand scored twice in Game 6 for Boston, and Tuukka Rask made 23 saves. The Bruins, who reached the Stanley Cup Final two years ago, were eliminated in the second round for the second straight year.
“They’re a good defensive team,” Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said. “They manage pucks clearly better than us. We’re not getting those free chances they got in terms of mismanaging pucks. … They don’t beat themselves.”
With the Bruins on the power play, Marchand got the puck in front of the net and put a backhander past Varlamov from the right side at 5:38 of the third to cut Boston’s deficit to 4-2. It was Marchand’s fifth of the series and eighth of the postseason.
The Islanders’ stifling defense limited the Bruins to just five shots on goal in the third.
The Bruins pulled Rask for an extra skater with 1:25 left, and the Islanders got empty-netters in the final minute from Clutterbuck and Pulock to seal it.
After outscoring the Bruins 8-3 in the middle periods of the first five games, New York had three more in the second — for the third time in the series.
Nelson stole the puck from Matt Grzelcyk, who took off on breakaway and beat Rask into the top right corner at 5:20 to put New York up 2-1.
Bailey stole an outlet pass from Rask and fed Nelson streaking to net, and Nelson beat the goalie from the right side with 7:23 left in the second for his second of the night and sixth of the playoffs.
The Islanders stretched the lead to 4-1 as Palmieri got the rebound of Pelech’s point shot and put it in from the right side for his seventh of the postseason.
The Islanders got on the scoreboard first as Zajac scored on the rebound of a point shot by Noah Dobson at 8:52 of the first for his first goal this postseason.
Boston had a 5-on-3 for 14 seconds late in the first on overlapping tripping penalties on Anthony Beauvillier and Casey Cizikas. It drew chants of “New York Saints! New York Saints!” from the crowd, a reference to what Cassidy called the Islanders when complaining about the imbalance in penalties after Game 4.
“We hear some of the chants,” Bailey said. “Tonight was an incredible atmosphere out there. I think we really fed off it.”
After the first penalty expired, Marchand tied it with 2:24 remaining as he got a cross-ice pass from Pastrnak in the right circle and quickly bet Varlamov high on the glove side.
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