The term street fight has been used once to describe already one game in the playoffs for the Islanders. Oddly enough, it was coined by a Penguins beat writer in the last round in game three where they lost 5-4 to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
It was in that contest, particularly in the third period, the Isles upped the physicality and the nastiness. That shift in the Islanders’ mentality helped change the series.
And after last night, it’s not unrealistic to believe that same turn might be what happens as the series shifts back to Boston for Game 5 Monday night.
The Isles plan was simple in game four: punish the Bruins at every turn physically.
“That’s the way we’re built,” head coach Barry Trotz said postgame. “That’s the way our roster has been created. We know who we are. We don’t try to be someone else or someone who you want us to be.”
Right from the jump the Islanders made clear to the B’s this wasn’t going to be a repeat of game three. No, this showdown was going to be a fight, and not just for space or opportunities (which it was again to be honest). Scott Mayfield dropped the gloves with Taylor Hall minutes in. Hall, who initiated the scrap, hadn’t fought in over 10 years. But it was a moment early on that the Isles needed.
If that unlikely tilt didn’t exemplify what kind of game the Isles wanted, Matt Martin beating up Jared Tinordi was.
Matt Martin laying the wood to Jared Tinordi pic.twitter.com/jXdK50Lr4M
— Rob Taub (@RTaub_) June 5, 2021
The Islanders weren’t going to give an inch on this evening. There were scrums after almost every whistle, another element that which seemed to only engage them and the rabid crowd inside the Nassau Coliseum. It’s also probably exactly what the Isles wanted to help get the Bruins off their game, which it did on some occasions throughout the 60 minutes.
“Of course, some animosity is going to develop, but we’re two teams that want to win,” said Kyle Palmieri, who scored for his fifth goal of the postseason and was battling all game long.
“Our fans were into it. We just want to go out there and compete. Sometimes tempers flare like that. We’re just going to continue to play our game.”
Palmieri is right. The intensity was through the roof.
As the game wore on too, it felt like it was going to be won in the trenches to borrow the football reference. That’s exactly the way things went down in the third. Even Mathew Barzal, who got the game-winner and played arguably the best playoff game of his career thus far, took a beating physically.
But that’s how games are won in the playoffs. It’s a dog fight. Barzal was biting with every single chance.
If there was a chance the Islanders were going to get the series even, they were going to have to punch the Bruins in the mouth. Boston on paper is the better team, the more-skilled team, and at times through this series have been the more physical team. But the Isles, for a long time time now and in the previous round, have shown they’re willing to muck it up if it means winning the game.
Game four was a black and blue affair in every sense of the word. The Islanders made it that way.
They turned it into a street fight and won because of it.
Follow Rob on Twitter at @RTaub_