Casey Cizikas pots OT winner, Islanders take Game 2, tie series with Bruins

Cizikas Islanders Bruins
May 31, 2021; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; New York Islanders center Casey Cizikas (53) scores the game winning goal past Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask (40) in overtime in game two of the second round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs at TD Garden.
Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

We have a series, after all — and the New York Islanders got their all-important split on the road.

Casey Cizikas potted the overtime winner with 5:12 remaining in the extra period, sniping a breakaway wrist shot over Tuukka Rask off a Bruins turnover at the Islanders’ blue line to deliver New York a 4-3 victory and to tie the series at one game apiece.

It was Cizikas’ first goal since April 1 and his first postseason goal in six years, when the Islanders were playing against a Barry Trotz-led Washington Capitals team.

“It’s been a really long time,” Cizikas said. “You’re just trying to do the right thing in overtime, be in the right spots. I was lucky for that puck to pop off in the middle and give me an opportunity to get that one.”

The fourth liner’s winner was the exclamation point on a breathtaking overtime period that saw menacing chances traded throughout, though it was Semyon Varlamov who stood the tallest to backstop the Islanders to victory. In his first start in nearly two weeks, the veteran goalie stepped in for rookie Ilya Sorokin and made 39 saves with an abundance of game savers.

“He was great for us the whole game,” Islanders forward Jean-Gabriel Pageau, who had a goal and an assist, said. “He’s been great for us the whole season. To come up and make the big saves, it gives us the little boost sometimes that you need.

“We were able to create some chances, get some looks, and to see that your goalie has your back, it’s massive. I’m very happy for him.”

The Islanders blew a 3-1 lead in the third period after a three-goal outburst in the second, prompting overtime. In the final 10 minutes of regulation, the Bruins got two goals from their “Perfection Line” in Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand.

But they recovered to uncharacteristically control a majority of the chances — going on a 16-3 shooting run after Marchand’s equalizer.

“We took a deep breath after the third and got right back at it in OT,” forward Kyle Palmieri said.

The underdogs continue to pull out unlikely wins and now will be headed to Nassau Coliseum for Game 3 of the series on Thursday.

“We just knew we needed to refocus,” Josh Bailey, who’s too-many-men penalty allowed Boston to tie it, said. “They took advantage of some opportunities… At that point, you’re in overtime, you have to refocus and I thought we did that. Happy to come away with the win.”

Once again this postseason, though, the Islanders were playing catch-up almost immediately. Just 2:38 in, Charlie Coyle’s power move down the left wing blew by a helpless Nick Leddy before weaving around Varlamov and slotting it into the neg on Boston’s first shot of the night.

The Bruins came inches from doubling their lead midway through the first just moments after Taylor Hall took Kyle Palmieri out with a dangerous high hit when Brandon Carlo hit the post on a wrister through traffic from the right circle.

The Islanders settled the later it got into the first period with the first line and star center Mathew Barzal generating most of its opportunities and sustained zone time, yet Rask was unflappable.

“He was dancing, he was going to the hard areas, he was fighting for his inches,” Trotz said of Barzal. “They were having a hard time containing him. That’s what we need.”

It would be a fluke goal that would get the Islanders on even terms 6:52 into the second period. With David Pastrnak in the penalty box for running Varlamov, Josh Bailey meandered down the right boards before centering a pass that went off the leg of Bruins defenseman Jeremy Lauzon and through Rask.

Rask had to be big three and a half minutes later to stone Komarov on the doorstep as the Islanders’ first line continued to buzz.

With nine minutes to go in the period, the Islanders jumped in front when Kyle Palmieri stuffed home a Leddy missed shot off the back boards through Rask, which seemed to trickle through with the help of Carlo.

Some inappropriate extracurriculars by Carlo, who was called for a crosscheck after the play on Leo Komarov, set up the Islanders’ third goal of the period when Anthony Beauvillier managed to slide a puck from in close across Rask’s goal, only for Pageau to finish in an empty net with 3:39 left in the frame.

“Rask is a good goalie so you need to bring traffic around them and put a lot of pucks on net and win some battles around the net,” Pageau said of the Islanders’ formula. “We were able to do that. That’s why we got a few goals.”

After some initial New York chances to start the third, the Bruins started to boss possession and the chances playing from behind. While Varlamov stood tall throughout most of the night, he was beaten by a soft floater of a one-timer by Bergeron that was screened by young Islanders defenseman Noah Dobson with 9:26 to go in regulation.

The Islanders retreated into full survival mode, trying to quell wave after wave of Bruins attacks. But with 5:21 to go, they took a too-man-men penalty to only strengthen Boston’s momentum.

Less than 30 seconds after the penalty, the Bruins tied it as Marchand sniped a wrister through Scott Mayfield before beating Varlamov with 4:54 to go.

Forty-four seconds later, the Islanders were gifted a power play when Bruins defenseman Mike Reilly played the puck with a broken stick after it shattered on a slapper attempt from the point.

The Islanders were able to put four shots on goal, including two at the doorstep from Pageau, but Rask stood firm in the final minutes to force overtime.

“That was a hell of a hockey game,” Trotz said. “That was two good teams going nose-to-nose. That’s the type of series I expected going into it and I expect more of the same going back to the Island.”

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