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Nelson Leads Islanders to Stanley Cup Semifinals

Islanders

Another No. 4 seed is headed to the Stanley Cup Semifinals. The New York Islanders defeated the Boston Bruins 6-2 on Wednesday, advancing to face the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Islanders beat the Bruins in 6 games, winning three games in a row to advance. Although the Bruins’ powerplay went 2/3 on the night, it was not enough. 

Even First Period

Travis Zajac was traded from the New Jersey Devils to the Islanders on the trade deadline. He only posted two points for the Islanders in the regular season, but he has a penchant for stepping up when it counts. He scored first in Game 6, his first goal of the 2021 Playoffs. Tuuka Rask stopped the shot from Noah Dobson but couldn’t find the rebound.  Zajac was battling with Charlie McAvoy but got his stick free and ripped it past Rask. With four minutes left in the period, the Bruins got a power play. David Krejci hung out at the blue line with the puck. Krejci passed it to David Pasternak who slid it cross-ice to Brad Marchand. Semyon Varlamov tried to follow the puck, but Marchand was too quick and buried the one-timer past him. 

Photo / The Athletic

Second Period Explosion

The Islanders have been good in the second period throughout the Playoffs. They did it again on Wednesday, scoring three goals to put the game out of reach. Brock Nelson had one of his career-best periods, scoring twice. Nick Leddy passed it out of his zone to Josh Bailey. Bailey tapped it forward and it went to the feet of Matt Grzelcyk. Grzelcyk couldn’t handle the puck, and Nelson found it and burst toward Rask. Nelson moved to his left and forced Rask to commit.

As Rask overcommitted, Nelson buried it to his right and the Islanders took the lead. With seven minutes left in the second period, Rask left his net to play the puck. As Rask passed the puck, it bounced off Mike Reilly. Bailey was there and collected the puck and passed it to Nelson. As Rask scrambled back in position, Nelson went backhand over Rask. Then, only four minutes later, Kyle Palmieri got another rebound from Rask. As Rask stopped a shot from Adam Pelech, the puck bounced around. Palmieri found it and trickled it past Rask. 

Photo / Boston Herald

Too Little, Too Late

The Bruins got a power play in the third period, and Marchand scored again. He caught a pass from Krejci in front of the net and deked out Varlamov for the goal. But even he knew it wasn’t enough. The Islanders scored two empty netters, one from Cal Clutterbuck and one from Ryan Pulock, to end the game

What’s next for the Islanders

The Islanders now face off against the Tampa Bay Lightning for the second straight year. The Lightning beat the Islanders in six games on their way to a Stanley Cup win in the 2020 Playoffs. The Islanders now look for revenge. The Lightning must be careful about mistakes in their series. The Islanders make a living off mistakes, scoring multiple game-winners from bad passes and blown plays. In turn, the Islanders must be careful about keeping out of the penalty box. The Lightning’s power play is one of the best in the league and the Islanders must keep the game close. If the game is tied down the stretch in the third period, that favors the Islanders. The schedule for this series has not been announced yet, but Game 1 will presumably be over the weekend. 

What’s next for the Bruins

The Bruins have to be disappointed with this outcome. They played well and got contributions from their stars. But in the end, it didn’t matter, and they couldn’t beat the Islanders. The Bruins can try and run it back next year, and it makes the most sense for them to do that. They will have to be smart in protecting their players in the expansion draft for the Seattle Kraken. If they play their protections right, they can return a similar team for next year. If they do that, they can hope for another run to the Stanley Cup Finals. The magic of Patrice Bergeron, David Pasternak, Krejci, and Marchand will eventually run out, but the Bruins can attempt one more run. 

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