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Bentivenga: Islanders showed resilience and determination in tying series

The Islanders are now on level ground in their second-round playoff matchup with the Boston Bruins, following a 4-3 win in overtime Monday.

It wasn’t pretty by any stretch of the imagination, but looking at this game there were two factors that stood out from the rest when analyzing the Isles’ victory. In fact, both factors are words that Barry Trotz has injected into this team since his first day on the Island: resilience and determination. 

This game wasn’t an ideal start for the Isles following their loss in game one. Going into game two, Trotz opted to turn to veteran netminder Semyon Varlamov, who’s had a bit of a tough time getting settled into games this postseason, in an attempt to spark some life into his group. Many fans questioned the decision to turn away from Ilya Sorokin, and the questions and doubts only began to rain down heavier when Bruins forward Charlie Coyle opened the scoring just two-and-a-half minutes in. The Isles, after getting outshot 15-6 20 minutes in, found themselves victim to another slow start. 

Enter the first resilience boost of the night. On top of Varlamov settling down after an early goal against, the Isles came out flying in the second period. Three goals in the middle frame on 11 shots, including a pair of power-play markers, put the blue and orange up by two on the road heading into the third period. 

In front of a near-capacity crowd at home, it was expected the Bruins were going to push hard to even the score in the third period, and they did just that. After such a solid middle frame, the Isles’ two-goal lead evaporated as Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand both tallied their first goals of the series. Under any other coach, the Isles might’ve folded after Marchand’s tying goal… pack it in as if the game was already out of reach, and move on to game three. 

But as we all know… Barry Trotz isn’t some “run-of-the-mill” coach.

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After the Marchand goal, the Isles didn’t fold, or pack it in, they attacked. They began throwing anything and everything towards Bruins goaltender Tuuka Rask, and played aggressively in the offensive zone. In fact, despite allowing two goals, the Isles had the advantage in shots on goal in the third by two (outshooting the B’s 13-11). They allowed two goals, however, the Islanders were the better team heading into overtime. 

And how did that overtime start, you ask? With the Isles picking up right where they left off in regulation. Nine shots on goal in the extra session (most of which came on an extended shift in the Bruins’ zone to start), and only three chances against. But the biggest chance was ultimately not one the Isles stopped. Bruins blueliner Jeremy Lauzon’s pass hits Coyle’s skate, and landed in front of a pressuring Casey Cizikas. Cizikas walks in on Rask, picks top shelf on the blocker side, and sends the road team home happy.

The win was massive for the Islanders, and it wasn’t for the natural reasoning of tying up the series.

This was a win where the Isles faced adversity, faced several key offensive chances, even had a two-goal lead slip through their fingers, yet not a single ounce of panic. They were passive when they needed to be, and aggressive when the game called for it. And it’s not like this was a minor game either. It was a crucial game two, on the road, already down one game in the series, in front of a raucous and rowdy Boston crowd and heading into sudden death after choking away a two-goal lead. The character of the Isles flashed its true colors, and there aren’t many better endings that could be drawn up than with a game-winner from a player who defines character. 

But don’t take it from me, take it from coach Trotz himself. “This is a character win for us,” Trotz said postgame. “There’s no one in our room with more character, that’s more beloved, than Casey,” said Trotz in a postgame conference on MSG Networks. Well said, coach. 

This series now shifts to Long Island, as the Isles host two in a row beginning with game three on tomorrow night.




Follow Carter on Twitter @cbentivenga14

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