In the first playoff game on Nassau Coliseum ice since 2019, the Islanders played a game that would’ve gotten them a win nine times out of ten. This, unfortunately, was that one losing occasion, as the Isles dropped a barnburner to the Pittsburgh Penguins, 5-4. The defeat has the Isles now trailing in their first round series 2-1 with a pivotal game four looming tomorrow afternoon.
This game was incredible, mainly in the fact that it included all the elements of a hockey fan’s dream contest. Lots of goals, big saves by both netminders, crushing hits, and even a few scrums made Game 3 a must-see event. Despite the Isles coming out on the losing end of a game that they could’ve (and arguably should’ve) won, there are a lot of positives to be taken from a game like this.
1) Mathew Barzal is finally heard from
In my most recent article, I mentioned that Barzal is one of the key pieces that needs to be seen offensively in order for the Islanders to produce. Barzy definitely came to play last night as he put up a personal postseason-high five shots (which was more SOG alone than his totals in games one and two combined). The biggest thing for Barzal was that his name was finally featured on the scoresheet with two primary assists, tallying one on Scott Mayfield’s second period marker, and the other on Anthony Beauvillier’s power-play goal to tie the game at three. I think I speak for all Isles fans when I say that hopefully this game gave Barzal the spark he needed to step up offensively.
2) Scott Mayfield’s spectacular outing
Let me start out with this statement: as of now (before game four of the series), the Isles’ postseason leader in points is Scott Mayfield with four. That might sound crazy on its own, and it might sound even more so when you realize the St. Louis, MO native notched three points in game three alone. Mayfield, who scored the first Isles goal of the night and assisted on both of Clutterbuck’s, was arguably the best Islander out there tonight. His offensive game was clearly outstanding, and paired with his always physical presence and intimidating game it created a sight to behold for number 24.
— IslesBlog (@IslesBlog) May 21, 2021
For someone who’s taken a lot of heat from the fanbase this season (and in years past), it’s nice to see Mayfield stepping up in a big way.
3) The Identity Line came to play
What more is there to say about the best fourth line in hockey? Head coach Barry Trotz has said in the past that he likes to start the trio of Matt Martin, Casey Cizikas and Cal Clutterbuck because it brings the energy right off the drop of the puck. And boy, did they ever show that on Thursday night. The E=MC2 line hit basically everything that moved in game three, and as one would expect, they were in the middle of the majority of the scrums and skirmishes that took place. Their physicality fired up the Coliseum crowd, and had a massive showing in the third period alone. Clutterbuck got the third period scoring started off a cross-crease pass from Cizikas to make it a 3-2 game, and number 15 would strike again later in the period to tie the game at four.
Cizikas was quoted postgame when he said, “That’s the way we want to play, that’s the way our team is built. Going forward, that’s the way we have to play.”
If the “Identity Line” can chip in efforts like the one they put up in game three, the Isles are in a good spot.
Follow Carter on Twitter at @cbentivenga14