Islanders Advance to Semifinals for Second Straight Year
Two weeks after winning their first-round series in front of an equally cacophonous crowd at the Nassau Coliseum, the Islanders had the chance to play another decisive game at home.
They didn’t disappoint, as the Islanders finished off the Bruins with a 6-2 win in Game 6 of their second-round series.
The Islanders broke a 1-1 tie with three goals in the second period, two by Brock Nelson and one by Kyle Palmieri. Semyon Varlamov, who came on with a .925 goals-against average, had another stellar game with 23 saves. The Islanders added two goals into an empty net in the third period.
The Islanders have reached the semifinals for a second straight season and will face Tampa Bay again. Last year, the Lightning beat the Islanders in six games before defeating Dallas to win the Stanley Cup.
The 2020 series took place in a bubble environment in Edmonton, Alta., But this year’s showdown will be the first semi-final on Long Island since 1993. Tampa Bay qualified after beating the Hurricanes Carolina in five games.
“It’s a great opportunity to see them again in the semifinals,” said Josh Bailey, an Islanders forward who collected two assists. “We are really looking forward to it.”
Travis Zajac opened the scoring 8:52 into the first period, putting the puck past Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask.
Zajac, 36, who along with Palmieri was a late-season Devils acquisition, sent the Colosseum crowd into a frenzy with his first playoff goal.
Zajac had played his entire career, over 1,000 games, for the Devils before the trade and replaced injured Oliver Wahlstrom in the lineup for the final game of the first-round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Brad Marchand of Boston scored both of the Bruins’ power-play goals, one at 5:36 p.m. to tie the game and the second in the third period.
But the Islanders – whose previous five playoff victories came after allowing the opening goal – played with determination and determination evenly, forcing the Bruins through the perimeter and fiercely protecting the space in front of Varlamov.
“It was just a great team effort,” Zajac said. “We had contributions from everyone. It was an electric atmosphere and I liked the way we fought.
He added: “It was nice to play with the head.”
Nelson scored his fifth playoff goal at 5:20 of the second period with assists from Bailey and Nick Leddy, then gave the Islanders a two-goal cushion at 12:39. Palmieri scored their team-best seventh of the playoffs at 4:07 pm, putting the Islanders up three.
Hours before crucial Game 6, Andy Greene – acquired at the end of last season by the Islanders – marveled at the chance to play with his former Devils teammates in such high-stakes games.
“You have to know the present moment and embrace it,” said Greene, 38, who had also been a career heck before the exchange. “It’s been great playing with Trav and Palms and being on the run. It was cool to be able to share it with them.
Now the three former Devils – all of whom were acquired by Lou Lamoriello, their former boss in New Jersey, who is now the team president and general manager of the Islanders – will play.
And a season in which the Islanders played their first crowd-free home game against those same Bruins will continue with 12,000 fans. waving orange napkins while singing and singing in the last Colosseum games.
“As we’ve started to have back fans with everyone getting their shots, it makes a lot more sense,” Islanders coach Barry Trotz said. “It’s a great feeling.”
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